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Tanker Begins Journey To Drydock Nine Days After Spill

July 3, 1989

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) _ A Greek tanker ringed by Coast Guard vessels and a tugboat with pollution booms aboard began its journey to drydock Sunday morning, nine days after hitting a rock and spilling 420,000 gallons of oil into the ocean.

The World Prodigy, with a Coast Guard official aboard to oversee its captain and crew on the trip to New York, was nudged by the tugboat to loosen its anchor chain and then began moving under its own power with a puff of black smoke from its engines.

A Coast Guard helicopter passed over the World Prodigy and saw no oil leaking from the vessel, said Petty Officer Brian Kelley of the Coast Guard’s Boston office. He said Coast Guard aircraft would check the ship periodically during the trip.

The ship will enter New York harbor during Monday afternoon’s high tide and will be repaired at New York Shipyard Corp., on the site of the old Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Coast Guardsmen and onlookers at Brenton Point State Park were not sorry to see the tanker depart.

″The sooner they get out of here, the better,″ said Gunn.

″I’m glad to see it’s gone,″ agreed Joseph Sweetland of Middletown, a regular Sunday visitor to the park. ″There’s a lot better view out here and with that thing sitting out there, anything could happen, I guess.″

Others at Brenton Point praised the Coast Guard’s quick response to the spill and said it would not leave a lasting mark on Newport.

″After three months goes by, this is all going to be forgotten,″ said Rich Boccio of Seekonk, Mass. ″You come back here next year and ask people about the oil tanker, and I’d say 40 percent of the people won’t know about the oil tanker.″

A Narragansett Bay pilot was aboard as the World Prodigy made its way out of the treacherous waters surrounding Brenton Reef. The tanker’s captain, who faces federal charges of violating pollution laws, has admitted he made a mistake in not having a pilot aboard when the accident happened on the afternoon of June 23.

Soon after departure, all but one of the Coast Guard vessels dropped back from the tanker. The tugboat, carrying booms in case of another accident with the small amount of oil remaining on the ship, was the only vessel scheduled to accompany the tanker on its entire trip to New York.

The World Prodigy was carrying nearly 8 million gallons of home heating oil at the time of the accident. Most of that oil was pumped out of the ship immediately afterward, but a layer of between a quarter-inch and 2 inches thick remained, said Coast Guard Lt. Paul Wolf. He said the oil was being held in place by 24 feet of water and was not considered a threat to leak out.

The oil that spilled, a relatively light form of oil compared with the crude oil that has caused such problems on Alaska beaches, has largely evaporated or dissipated.

The Coast Guard vessels were not scheduled to accompany the tanker all the way to New York.

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