Beaufort News

A Port Royal shrimp boat leaked fuel into the water. Officials say the spill is contained

A decommissioned shrimp boat docked in Port Royal leaked fuel into the water Friday, the latest in periodic issues with the docks as the town considers the future of the operation.

Town officials said Monday the spill had been contained and posed no additional environmental threat. State environmental regulators and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to the town’s dock at the end of 11th Street on Battery Creek Friday evening after a boater reported a sheen on the water.

A boat named the Buccaneer was leaking diesel fuel from a small hole about 6 inches below the water, said Town Councilman Jerry Ashmore. The red fuel was bubbling to the surface and being carried along in the current.

It’s unclear how much fuel might have leaked into the tidal river.

Ashmore said he received a call from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control about the leak just after 7 p.m.

Town manager Van Willis and a dock hand who had been looking after the boat for its out-of-state owner deployed a boom kept at the docks to contain the spreading fuel. A diver was called and patched the hole Friday night.

Town officials visited the site again on Saturday. Willis said the Coast Guard will not require any additional cleanup.

“I was real impressed with the speed of how everything got cleaned up and the situation got stabilized,” Ashmore said. “It shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but it happened. And everything was handled properly.”

The boat’s owner, who lives in Florida, arrived Sunday and was apologetic and said the Coast Guard told him to remove remaining liquid from the boat before working on it, said Lorene Nans, who heads the nonprofit Port Royal Pirates Club that supports the working shrimp dock. He told people at the dock he plans to pull the boat from the water for repairs.

The dock is across from Parris Island and adjacent to a popular restaurant in the town’s Old Village area and has been managed by the town for years.

Periodic issues with abandoned and derelict boats at the dock raise questions about upkeep and the future of the seafood industry in the town.

A 60-foot boat sank in August, leaking fuel into the water. Town officials said they would crack down on abandoned boats and those not paying rent as required.

The nonprofit Pirates Club has sold shrimp from a tent near the dock while town officials and private developers contemplate the future of the dock operation.

Stephen Fastenau covers northern Beaufort County as a reporter for The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet, where he has worked since 2010 and been recognized with state and national awards. He studied journalism and political science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and lives in Beaufort.
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