Bulker Goes Aground in Columbia River

Imagery courtesy USCG / Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read

By MarEx 2016-03-21 21:17:20

The U.S. Coast Guard Thirteenth District reports that the 620-foot Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Sparna went aground in a narrow stretch of the Columbia River near Cathlamet, Washington, just after midnight on Monday. The Sparna has taken on water in void spaces, but authorities believe the vessel's fuel tanks were not damaged in the incident.

“The positive news so far is that responders have not observed any oil in the water,” said Captain Dan Travers, Coast Guard Captain of the Port for the Columbia River. “The vessel quickly activated its plan and all federal, state, and county responders mobilized immediately. This is a joint effort with both states [Oregon and Washington] and hopefully will just turn out to have been an exercise in mobilizing pollution response resources.” 

The USCG says that she had a river pilot onboard and was in the outbound lane when she ran into trouble. The exact cause of the incident is still under investigation, but a Coast Guard statement suggests that she hit a submerged object. The Sparna immediately activated its “Vessel Response Plan,” required of all large vessels transiting the Columbia River for pollution contingencies. Under the plan, the Maritime Fire & Safety Association and Clean Rivers Cooperative deployed response vessels, boom and personnel.

The Sparna is laden with 200,000 gallons of high sulfur fuel and 40,000 gallons of diesel. Two tug boats – the PJ Brix and Pacific Escort – are on scene to keep the Sparna stabilized. The Coast Guard has not closed the navigable channel of the river.

She is listing to port, and has a full load of grain on board. The Coast Guard says that it will have to approve any salvage plan before a refloat attempt may be made. The vessel is not blocking the navigational channel, and the captain of the port has kept the waterway open to other vessels.

The Panama-flagged Sparna is owned by Santoku Senpaku of Japan, an operator of about 120 vessels of various classes, including bulkers, container ships, ro/ros, wood-chip bulkers, reefers and chemical tankers.