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Rough waters from Bering Sea to Prince William Sound for Alaska vessels

Jerzy Shedlock
Photo courtesy ADF&G

A handful of ships have run aground, sank or caught fire over the past week prompting Alaska’s Coast Guard to divvy its resources. Efforts to pull the fishing vessel Lone Star from the Igushik River near Dillingham continue while additional personnel responded to a minor diesel spill in Prince William Sound on Saturday.

At about 10:30 p.m. Friday, divers secured the Lone Star’s portside vents and sealed many of the ship’s doors and hatches, said Coast Gaurd Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggart.

The accident aboard the 78-foot fishing vessel occurred about 6:55 a.m. Sunday, when the Coast Guard received a mayday call from a crewmember aboard the vessel. The changing tide had reportedly swung the anchored ship into its anchor chain, which caught on the transducer and coolant lines, pulling them loose and creating a hole in the steel hull of the boat. 

“Attempts were made to plug the hole,” Eggart said, “but strong water currents prevented them from doing so.” And after a week, the vessel remains at the bottom of the Igushik.

Poor weather and equipment delays have slowed recovery efforts, according to the Coast Guard. The ship’s starboard side is stuck in the mud, nearly 18 feet underwater. Response personnel are trying to figure out how to access the vents on that side of the vessel.

Lone Star, which works for Trident Seafoods, a seafood harvester and processor with shore-side plants in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, hired oil response organization Alaska Chadux to mitigate pollution caused by the vessel, and its owner also hired another company to remove the ship from the river using a three-step plan.

Salvage crews will seal the fuel vents on both sides of the vessel, transfer its fuel to another vessel and pull the Lone Star from the river’s silt.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game pilots will continue overflights Saturday.

When the vessel initially sank, a fuel sheen stretching a mile downstream was visible. Eggart said Friday’s reports indicate the fuel is no longer visible.

The vessel sank with a reported 35,000 pounds of fish, 14,000 gallons of diesel, 150 gallons of lube oil, 150 gallons of hydraulic fluid and 250 gallons of gasoline aboard. Good Samaritans safely rescued the vessel’s crew.

Meanwhile, in Southcentral, the Kenai-based fisher tender Naknek Spirit ran aground in Passage Canal six miles east of Whittier in Prince William Sound. According to the vessel’s co-owner, Vincent Goddard, the ship struck a rock, which ruptured its starboard fuel tank.

The tank held 2,000 gallons of diesel, but Naknek’s five crewmembers transferred all but 500 gallons into an intact tank.

Rising water lifted the boat, and it traveled to Whittier using its own power, Eggart said. Alaska Chadux was hired in this boating incident, as well; it contained the spill, he said. According to Goddard, the cleanup crews determined little mitigation efforts were necessary, as the spill was minor and currents dissipated most of the fuel.

Coast Guard units in Southcentral and Western Alaska responded to multiple search and rescue, law enforcement and pollution cases on Independence Day. The Anchorage Center sent an inspector to two-barge collision on the Kuskokwim River, and it’s currently working with the Alaska State Troopers, investigating a moored boat that caught fire in Egegik and killed one man.

“This has been a particularly busy time,” Eggart said. “Summer is more up tempo, but it’s been busier than usual.”

Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com