The Soviet oil skimmer was at work off the tip of the Kenai Peninsula on Friday, but how successful it has been is unclear.
U.S. Coast Guard, which has an observer aboard, said Friday evening it did not know how much oil the Vaydaghubsky had collected. The 425 foot ship is reputed to have greater skimming capacity than any other ship working to collect oil spilled by the tanker Exxon Valdez on March 24.
"We only know it is working off Gore Point, and that it has collected an unknown amount of oil," a Coast Guard spokesman in Anchorage said.
The Coast Guard said there were large patches of oil sheen and oilwater emulsion in that area of the Gulf of Alaska.
The Gore point area holds the largest concentrations of oil that has drifted out of Prince William Sound, where the tanker went aground on a reef 30 days ago and spilled more than 10 million gallons of North Slope crude.
State and federal oil spill trackers said the oil had not moved into Kachemak Bay, near Homer, by Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, a small oil spill was found at a tanker berth in the Port of Valdez early Friday morning.
At about 4 a.m., the Exxon San Francisco discharged about 15 gallons of crude oil when it was pumping out what was supposed to be clean ballast.
Exxon inspectors are still trying to determine the cause of the oil leak, but state Department of Environmental Conservation officials in Valdez said it appeared that a bulkhead separating cargo tanks from the cleanballast tank was cracked in several places.
Cleanup crews from Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spent the day mopping up the oil. By 4 p.m., DEC still was not satisfied with the job and was reporting an oil sheen still on the water around the tanker.
Joe LeBeau of DEC said the agency did not intend to let the tanker sail until all the oil was cleaned up. "If it's not cleaned up, it seems inappropriate to let it go and spread oil all over," he said.
DEC also closed an adjacent berth where oil had spread, leaving the pipeline terminal with two of its four berths out of commission. The shippers were trying to get the problem straightened out and the loaded tanker on its way before darkness, opening up spots for more empty tankers waiting outside the port.
Since the Exxon Valdez spill, the state and Coast Guard won't let loaded tankers sail at night through Prince William Sound.
Beverly Michaels, an Alyeska spokeswoman, said Friday the pipeline company thinks the oil has been "pretty well cleaned up" but that DEC was being extra careful. She said the delay in moving the tankers in and out was not expected to result in having to slow the flow of oil through the pipeline.
Recently, the Coast Guard has begun keeping a closer eye on tankers that sail to Valdez from the Lower 48. A Coast Guard study showed that the Valdez tankers were suffering a high rate of structural failures hull cracks and cracks in internal walls because of 10 years of sailing the roughest seas in the world, the Gulf of Alaska and North Pacific.
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