SAN MATEO – A Florida salvage company hopes to complete by the end of September the removal of thousands of gallons of fuel oil from the S.S. Jacob Luckenbach that lies in 175 feet of water 17 miles southeast of San Francisco.
The ship sunk when it struck another ship in 1953. It was bound for Korea to deliver supplies for the Korean War. Oil leaking from the Luckenbach has killed more than 1,800 sea birds since November.
The U.S. Coast Guard, Titan Maritime Industries LLC of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and the state Department of Fish and Game's Office of Spill Prevention and Response are partners to the recovery of the oil that remains on the 468-foot-long vessel that lies in three pieces in 45 degree water at the bottom of an inbound shipping lane.
Robert Hughes, spokesman for the Office of Spill Prevention and Response, said 25,000 gallons has been extracted from tanks that didn't rupture on the ship, which was carrying as many as 100,000 gallons of fuel oil.
The ship started leaking fuel oil when it sank, but each year around November since 1992 the oil has washed ashore and coated sea birds, Hughes said.
The removal of the remaining oil, which in the chilly water has the consistency of refrigerated peanut butter until it is heated to 150 degrees and mixed with water in pump lines, could cost as much as $17 million, Hughes said.
Titan Maritime Industries salvage crews are working on a 100-foot-wide, 400-foot-long barge and are manufacturing equipment to aid their extraction efforts even as the operation progresses.
Hughes said the weather has been good after severe weather in May when salvage crews first arrived and were greeted by 25-30-foot seas.