During the 2004 Thanksgiving weekend, the single-hulled tanker Athos I was preparing to dock at a refinery just outside Philadelphia. As it approached, it struck a large anchor submerged in the Delaware River. The impact punctured the tanker’s hull, and it began leaking more than 263,000 gallons of heavy oil into the tidal waters of this busy East Coast shipping route.
Witt O’Brien’s solution
We immediately responded on behalf of the tanker owner and were on site within 2 hours. We assumed the role of incident commander, leading a unified command that included representatives from the US Coast Guard, the State of Delaware, the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This effort demanded a range of unique solutions, including relocation of the command post in mid-response; securing suitable staging areas; establishing a science committee; conducting Town Hall meetings, and identifying techniques for detecting submerged oil.
This complex response lasted over 6 months. Our onsite partnership with the tanker owner successfully responded to the breach and mitigated the impact of the oil spill. When the response was complete, we supported the tanker owner through the lengthy legal processes that ensued.