Delaware River oil spill elicits new criticism of single-hulled oil tankers

Last weekend’s oil spill on the Delaware River — which U.S. Coast Guard officials now say may be considerably worse than previously estimated, involving up to 473,500 gallons of crude — is drawing attention to single-hulled oil tankers. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) calls them “accident[s] waiting to happen.” Single-hulled tankers — like the Citgo-chartered Athos I, which dumped in the Delaware — have been banned from certain sensitive waters in Europe, replaced by safer double-hulled models. But single-hulled ships will be allowed to ply U.S. waters until 2015, and laws passed in the wake of the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill established strict liability caps for tankers. Lautenberg and fellow New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine (D) have now proposed removing those caps for single-hulled tankers, and some enviros are pushing to ban such ships from the Delaware altogether.