Crews planned have to offload equipment that could be used in a new attempt to stem the flow of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s first attempt to use a giant containment box to divert the crude was foiled.

There was a renewed sense of urgency as thick blobs of tar washed up on Alabama’s white sand beachers, yet another sign the spill was spreading.

The equipment to be offloaded from another vessel would use a tube to shoot mud and concrete directly into the well’s blowout preventer, a process that could take two to three weeks. But BP PLC spokesman Mark Proegler said no decisions have been made on what step the company will take next.

The company was considering several options, including the technique known as a “top kill”, Mr. Proegler said.

Crews planned to secure the big containment box about 490 meters from the massive leak site, much farther away from where it was placed on Saturday after icelike crystals clogged the top when it was over the leak, according to a daily activity sheet reviewed by The Associated Press.

It could be at least a day before BP can make another attempt at putting a lid on a well spewing thousands of gallons of crude into the Gulf each day.

Waves of dark brown and black sludge crashed into a boat in the area above the leak. The fumes there were so intense that a crewmember of the Joe Griffin and an AP photographer on board had to wear respirators while outside.

On the deck, a white cattle egret landed, brownish— coloured stains of oil on its face and along its chest, wings and tail.

The company’s first attempt to divert the oil with the containment box failed after it became encrusted with ice-like hydrates.

It had taken about two weeks to build the box and three days to cart the containment box 80 km. out and slowly lower it to the well 1.6 km. below the surface, but the frozen depths were just too much. BP officials were not giving up hopes that a containment box — either the one brought there or another one being built — could cover the well. But they said it could be Monday or later before they decide whether to make another attempt to capture the oil and funnel it to a tanker at the surface.

“I wouldn’t say it’s failed yet,” BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said of the containment box. “What I would say is what we attempted to do ... didn’t work.”

Early yesterday, there was little visible new activity at the site of the oil spill. The skies were clear, but the waves on the sea were kicking up and the wind was more breezy than in previous days.

Keywords: Oil spill