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San Juan Harbor, Officially Closed, Opens For Seven Hours

January 22, 1988

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ The port of San Juan was opened for about seven hours Thursday to clear a backlog of vessels unable to enter or leave port because of a grounded container ship, a Coast Guard spokesman said.

The vessel ran aground Tuesday night on a reef on the edge of the harbor channel.

The spokesman, Petty Officer Alan Burd, said the harbor will stay officially closed until the vessel Long Beach is removed, to prevent passing ships from jamming it further on the rocks with their wake or interfering with salvage efforts.

He said that despite this, ″the captain of the port wants to . .. get as many of the vessels moved so as to have the least impact on the local economy.″

On Thursday, Sea Land Services, Inc. of Elizabeth, N.J., the owner, began pumping 314,000 gallons of heavy bunker oil off the Long Beach to lighten the ship so it can be refloated, Burd said. He said the owner also planned to remove 1,000 tons of fresh water used for ballast.

He said tug boats would renew their efforts Friday at high tide.

The ship was not leaking fuel or taking on water and its position was stable, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Luis Diaz.

The Long Beach, 686 feet long and 75 feet wide, went aground Tuesday night on the west side of the 50-foot-deep harbor channel in about 16 feet of water.

The harbor was closed shortly afterward and remained shut 17 hours, preventing 25 ships from entering or leaving.

The vessels detained in the harbor included the Sovereign of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, on its maiden Caribbean voyage with former President Jimmy Carter and his family aboard. The cruise ship left Wednesday.

The harbor was opened several hours Wednesday to clear the bottleneck but by Thursday morning more than a dozen vessels were waiting to go in or out.

It was open again Thursday from noon to dark and will reopen from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Friday, Burd said.

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