EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 9, 2013

Tugboat sinks, spilling fuel in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — MIAMI — A Pentagon contract tugboat inexplicably sank at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, over the weekend, creating a hazardous waste spill, the base said Monday.

The 60-foot tugboat operated by a contractor, not the Navy, was named Little Debbie, base spokeswoman Kelly Wirfel said by email from the remote outpost. It was alongside a maintenance barge in the port when it sank, she said, forcing closure of the bay and its beaches to recreational activities over the weekend but not disrupting tugboat activity because Guantanamo has other tugs.

No injuries were reported. The cause of the sinking is under investigation, Wirfel said.

The latest mishap occurred a month after a barge bound for Guantanamo lost containers off South Florida, including a half-dozen new rental cars. Last fall, Superstorm Sandy churned up an inert 500-pound practice bomb, also closing some beaches.

“It is always interesting here,” Wirfel said.

Beaches reopened Monday afternoon once the fuel spill was “contained and under control of Port Services Recovery Team,” Wirfel said.

The base typically offers wide-ranging activities on the water for many of the 6,000 or so residents — fishing, diving, kayaking and sailing as well as beaches manicured for parties and barbecues.

Although it was not known how much oil spilled, the Navy base had trained for such a disaster and did not call in either the Coast Guard to inspect or other federal environmental authorities, said Wirfel.