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Coimbra wreck off LI will be assessed after delays, Coast Guard says

The British oil tanker Coimbra in 1941.

The British oil tanker Coimbra in 1941. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

The twice-delayed inspection of a well-known World War II British oil tanker, which was sunk in 1942 by a German U-boat, will begin Sunday in the waters off Shinnecock, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Saturday.

Florida-based Resolve Marine Group, a salvage company that specializes in removing tankers buried at sea, will conduct a nearly five-week assessment of the Allied tanker Coimbra, which was shipwrecked 30 miles southeast of the Shinnecock Inlet after being torpedoed, officials said.

The Coimbra was loaded with about 2.7 million gallons of lubricating oil — which is denser than gasoline — when it sunk, and most of that likely spilled or burned when it went down on Jan. 15, 1942.

“This assessment will help determine, and possibly remove any potential environmental threat the tanker poses," said Capt. Kevin Reed, commander of Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. "Our top priorities are safety of the public and protection of the marine environment.”

The operation is scheduled to take place from Sunday to May 30. The initial evaluation, the Coast Guard said, will assess the condition of the tanker, any potential environmental impact and any possible oil removal operations to reduce pollution risks.

The supply ship, which had set off from Bayonne, New Jersey, was heading to Halifax, Nova Scotia, when the sub attacked, killing 36 of the 46 crew members on board.

Boaters are urged to stay at least 500 yards away from the dive operation.

Since 2016, the Coast Guard said it has received one to two satellite reports of oil sheens tied to the wreck from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The inspection was twice delayed last year, first in June to finalize contacts with Resolve Marine and then again in July because of dangerous conditions stemming from Hurricane Chris. The Coimbra can be inspected only in summerlike conditions when the sea is calm enough for divers, officials said.

The company will get consultation assistance from the Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving; the Coast Guard's Atlantic Strike Team, Salvage Engineering Response Team and Office of Environmental Management; NOAA; and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

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