[Coral-List] Margara Oil Tanker Grounds on Coral Reef in Puerto Rico

Todd Barber reefball at reefball.com
Tue May 23 13:26:40 EDT 2006

Hi All,

This is an informational only email...this has not been reported well in the 
international press and I thought it might be useful for the scientific 
community to be aware of the grounding:

The Margara is a 748-foot oil tanker that ran aground over a diverse coral 
reef three miles south of Tallaboa, Puerto Rico, at 1:15 a.m. Thursday, 
April 27th.

The vessel is reported to have been navigating "by site" using land based 
lights to determine their position and did not request a local pilot. 
Given the time of the grounding, fatigue may have been another contributing 
factor.  However, it is inconceivable after historic incidents such as the 
Exxon Valdez, that a large oil tanker would be navigating near coral reefs 
without utilizing modern GPS systems and the aid of local pilots.  The 
Margara grounded just over a mile away from the channel designated for use 
by the tankers entering the busy port.

The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and 
CORALations (A local NGO) assembled an internationally experienced team to 
do a rapid assessment of the coral reef impacted by the groundings.  The 
Department was aided by reef restoration experts from the Reef Ball 
Foundation, CORALations, the Marine Environmental Studies Association, known 
as SAM by its Spanish acronym.  The preliminary site visit was conducted on 
Monday May 1.st

The investigation indicated that while the double hulled vessel apparently 
spilled no oil, the grounding decimated an estimated 7410 cubic meters of 
diverse coral reef over an estimated area of 3,000 square meters of sea 
floor.  There were at least 14 separate impact scars.   As a result of the 
finding of the initial assessment, NOAA and the DNR are following up with 
additional formal site assessments and should have a much more accurate 
survey.  A significant amount of the highly toxic tributyal tin (TBT) paint, 
used commercially to prevent the growth of marine organism on these vessels 
was documented in the impact scars.  A species of coral, Acropora 
cervicornis or Staghorn Coral, now listed as a threatened species, was 
documented within the impact scars.

Significant damage to the reef was caused during removal, which involved 
several failed attempts.  The heavy vessel rotated on the reef decimating 
coral reef in multiple areas.  Cables employed in the removal caused 
additional damage to reef as well.  It was reported that some agency 
advisors recommended the use of floating lines in advance of the removal due 
to previous lessons learned with other groundings.  This significant 
additional damage to the reef may have been prevented by more effective 
de-grounding oversight.

This is the second oil tanker to destroy coral reef in this area within a 

For more information please contact the Puerto Rico DNeR.


Todd R. Barber
Chairman, Reef Ball Foundation
3305 Edwards Court,
Greenville, NC 27858
941-720-7549 Cell
252-353-9094 Direct
Skype Toddbarber
MSN messenger reefball at hotmail.com
reefball at reefball.com (email address)

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