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Navy warship escorts against mines Friday as the supertanker led the way on the final leg of their journey through the Persian Gulf. The ,ton Bridgeton swapped roles with its protectors after unexpectedly striking a mine in an area believed to be safe. The role reversal was prompted by fears that a similar mine strike against one of the U. The Bridgeton, serving as an impromptu minesweeper, led a single-file convoy for the final eight hours of the hour trip to a pre-arranged point where two Kuwaiti patrol boats relieved the U.
William W. Mathis said as the convoy traveled in its new formation the last 70 miles of its mile track through the Persian Gulf. David P. Yonkers, the commodore commanding the first U. Navy escort of reflagged Kuwait tankers, would probably order the warships to avoid the area where the mine struck on their return to the southern Persian Gulf. Naval vessels will also soon escort to Kuwait other reflagged tankers returning from voyages to Europe and Asia.
The Bridgeton needs days to fill its huge tanks with crude oil. Reporters in the Pentagon press pool traveling on the Fox at a distance of 1, yards from the supertanker heard the mine explode and saw a puff of white smoke from Bridgeton shortly before 7 a. Both reporters and naval officials could see no above-water damage to the Bridgeton. No injuries were caused by the explosion. While the incoming water led to a two-degree list, the boat was balanced by pumping seawater ballast to its starboard side.
Bridgeton was able to complete its journey to Kuwait at a respectable knot pace, down 4 knots from its earlier speed of 16 knots. Navy officials could not immediately explain whether the convoy could have traveled an alternative route.
Some naval officials said they were inclined to believe that the mine had drifted down the gulf from an Iraqi-declared war zone in the northern gulf.