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Methodologies for Removing Heavy Oil as Used on the SS Jacob Luckenbach and Joint International Testing Programs

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At 0440 on July 14, 1953, the 468-foot long C3 Cargo/Oil Carrier SS Jacob Luckenbach was struck by the SS Hawaiian Pilot about 31 km (17 miles) west of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA. The Luckenbach sank with no loss of life, but sustained massive structural damage from the collision, which caused the sinking. At the time of her collision and sinking she was in route to Korea with a full cargo of jeeps, trucks, and railroad equipment for the Korean War effort. It is estimated that her bunkers were topped off for the trip with heavy bunker C oil.

In early 2002, the Luckenbach was identified as the source of "mystery" oil spills along the California coast. In May 2002, Titan Maritime LLC, with engineers from PCCI Inc., was contracted by the U.S. Coast Guard, Pacific Area Command, San Francisco, to conduct a vessel assessment and remove available oil. Global Diving & Salvage, Seattle, provided saturation diving services and Crowley Maritime provided the primary work barge and tug services.

Problems encountered included extended cold-water saturation diving at depths to 55 m, strong reversing currents, extremely adverse weather, and poor sub-sea visibility. The heavy residual oils in the deep tanks and double bottoms also proved to be a pumping challenge since some tanks contained oil that was far more viscous than normal number 6 fuel oil (Ingersoll-Dresser, 1998).

This paper describes the approach to the oil recovery from this wreck, as well as expanding upon more recent and ongoing developments in the field of emergency ship and sunken vessel viscous oil off-loading methodologies.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-09-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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