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Sunny Point moves beyond ammunition ship fire.

Military ammunition cargoes are again flowing unrestricted through the Military Traffic Management Command's Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point.

With some rescheduling, the 597th Transportation Group is again moving critical ammunition cargoes.

The return to normal operations follows a fatal July 14 ship fire on the MV Edward A. Carter, Jr., that killed two crewmen. The Carter was a Military Sealift Command-chartered ship, operated by Maersk Line, Limited, of Norfolk, Va.

A U.S. Coast Guard investigation, supported by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, continues. No fire cause has yet been identified.

Following additional safety inspections, 1,212 ammunition containers were removed from the vessel. The Carter was taken off charter and towed to Norfolk for repairs by her owner in late July.

Rescheduling of some parts of Sunny Point's summer workload is likely, said Col. Ron Heiter, Commander of the 597th Transportation Group.

No freight cargo operations were reported when the fire erupted in the engine room of the vessel. The civilian mariners killed in the fire were: Paul Powell, of St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Horace Beasely, of Gretna, Va.

As a precaution at the height of the fire, the U.S Coast Guard closed the adjacent Cape Fear River in either direction to maritime traffic.

"I cannot say enough about the great response of emergency personnel to this fire," Said Heiter.

"The outpouring of support was enormous. We had fire departments from all our neighboring communities coming in. The Coast Guard was on station. The American Red Cross provided refreshments."

MTMC's senior leader on the scene when the fire erupted was Ernest Riddle, a supervisory ammunition quality assurance specialist.

Upon hearing of the fire, Riddle ordered longshoremen and non-essential personnel from the area. He set up an initial command post at the installation's main security office. Later, this effort was shifted to Sunny Point's command operations center.

Among 597th employees who responded was Bev Brown, the installation's public affairs officer.

"I was really proud of the entire Sunny Point response," said Brown.

Late on the evening of July 14, Brown organized a press conference at Sunny Point's guard front gate. At that time, Heiter gave the first official information of the ship fire and praise for the response of Sunny Point employees and area volunteer fire departments.

The Sunny Point installation, the largest in the Military Traffic Management command, is located along N.C. Highway 133, on the Cape Fear River, near Southport, N.C. It was built in the mid-1950s, with a large undeveloped buffer zone and huge sand berms for safety.

The Carter arrived at Sunny Point on June 14 for the loading of prepositioned explosives. The vessel was to have departed for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean, on July 27.

Carter is a part of Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron Two. It is 950 feet long and has a displacement of 58,000 deadweight tons. The vessel carries a crew of 20 civilian merchant mariners.

The vessel was named for the late World War II Medal of Honor winner in a ceremony June 12 at the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Norfolk, Va.

Carter is the sister ship of the MV Lt. Col. John U.D. Page, delivered to the Military Sealift Command in March. The ships were projected to carry the Army containerized prepositioned ammunition by the end of 2001. Each ship can carry a total of 2,500 20-foot containers.
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Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001
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