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Two Tankers Collide In Atlantic

December 16, 1987

MIAMI (AP) _ Two tankers with up to 28 crewmen each collided in the Atlantic Ocean 700 miles off Florida on Tuesday night, and one vessel reported it was in danger of sinking, the Coast Guard said.

The 600-foot Panamanian freighter Explorer and the 575-foot Kuwaiti oil tanker Qarouh collided at 9:10 p.m. EST, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jim Simpson.

″We have no reports of injuries or fires right now,″ Simpson said. ″Both ships are dead in the water, and the Qarouh has indicated it has a pretty big hole in its side and is in danger of sinking.″

The captain of the Explorer reported that the ship had significant damage to the hold and was taking on water, but that his situation was under control, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Brian Lincoln.

Twenty to 28 crew members were aboard the Explorer, and 28 were on the Qarouh, Coast Guard Lt. Mitchell Russell said.

Coast Guard officers said they would try to stabilize the Qarouh before concerning themselves with a possible oil spill.

″We have assumed there is some oil spill, but we have a ship in danger of sinking and that’s not the top priority right now,″ Russell said. ″It’s pitch black out there, we won’t be able to see the extent of any spill until daybreak.″

A C-130 cargo plane was dispatched from Puerto Rico to establish communications with the ships and drop life rafts if necessary, Simpson said. It arrived at the site shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday, officials said.

″The plane is feeding us damage reports so we can decide what action to take. So far it doesn’t appear that the Kuwaiti ship is in immediate danger of going down,″ said Coast Guard Lt. Mike Scully. ″The C-130 can circle around out there for hours to provide assistance if it has to.″

The Coast Guard cutter Alert, stationed in the Bahamas, was closest to the scene and was dispatched to make the 250-mile, 12-hour trip, Simpson said.

″We have established limited radio communications with the Panamanian ship, but we have yet to establish any direct communications with the Kuwaiti tanker,″ Simpson said.

″What troubles me is that we have no people out there in the critical time immediately following the crash. But we’re getting out there as fast as we can, but they’re way out there.″

The ships’ home ports and destinations were not immediately known, Simpson said.

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