The riskiest part of the cleanup of oil spilled from a tugboat in the Richmond harbor has succeeded. The World War II-era Tiger tugboat sank in on December 11, and oil from leaky fuel tanks began seeping out. Baykeeper has been closely monitoring the process of cleaning up this potential oil spill threat to the Bay and nearby Brooks Island's bird habitat.
The Tiger has now been raised back up and righted. On February 4, a mixture of water and oil was removed from its interior. The tug no longer leaks oil, and spilled oil has been cleaned up.
The next step is to remove an estimated 52,000 gallons of oil remaining in the boat’s intact tanks to prevent any further leaking.
The salvage operation and cleanup operation was conducted by the Coast Guard and State Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR). The slip where the Tiger was docked was blocked off with multiple rows of boom, including a custom system that allows three of the booms to rise and fall with the tide. Skimmers removed oil coming off the boat.
When the tug was raised, the oily water mixture inside was pumped out with multiple pumps, picked up by constantly running skimmers and transferred to tanks on land.
The Brooks Island bird sanctuary was also protected with multiple layers of booming. East Bay Park District rangers did not report any signs of birds being oiled.
The Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) has posted photos and a PowerPoint presentation illustrating the cleanup and salvage work. See more on the oil spill cleanup.
After the oil is removed, the salvage team plans to clean and stabilize the Tiger. The tugboat, along with a sister tug, the Lion, were abandoned by the owner, who is living abroad. The cleanup is being funded through the federal Oil Spill Trust Fund.