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Huge tug for massive marine jobs now calls Dutch Harbor home

Jim PaulinDutch Harbor Fisherman
A tug boat strong enough to respond to a large-scale marine emergency is now stationed full-time in the Aleutians after the merger of local firm Magone Marine Service and worldwide Resolve Marine Services. Loren Holmes photo

A tug boat strong enough to prevent a major shipwreck and oil spill is now stationed full-time in the Aleutians, following the merger of two salvage companies, according to Dan Magone of Resolve-Magone Marine Service.

The big orange salvage tug Resolve Pioneer arrived in Unalaska a few weeks ago, and this week heads to its first Alaska assignment, recovering the sunken salmon tender Lone Star in the Igushik River in the Nushagak section of Bristol Bay.

The Resolve Pioneer made national news in February when it towed the Carnival Triumph passenger ship from Mexican waters to Mobile, Alabama, after the luxury liner lost power.

"Resolve has relocated two vessels to augment Magone's fleet in Alaska: the salvage tug Resolve Pioneer, with an 80-ton bollard pull capability, and the salvage barge RMG 300 which has a 450-ton capacity crane on board. Resolve Pioneer is an ABS class +1, ice class 1C towing vessel" according to a news release from Resolve, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Magone announced the sale of Magone Marine Service at last week's meeting of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission in Unalaska. He declined to provide financial details. "That's between us," he said.

Magone, with nearly 40 years of experience in the Aleutians, called the merger the "beginning of a new era." He expects the business to grow with a major increase in shipping traffic in the region. "Dutch Harbor will come of age in the next decade," he said.

"It's an exciting time for us, and there's going to be a lot going on here," Magone said.

A tugboat powerful enough to tow a big cargo ship drifting towards disaster has been needed in the region for a long time, especially since the 2004 bulk carrier Selandang Ayu grounded and broke in half on the north side of Unalaska Island. Six crewmembers died in the violent storm, and thousands of gallons of fuel were spilled from the vessel loaded with American soybeans.

The obstacle though, Magone said, has been money. The cost of keeping a fully-crewed tug on standby in the Aleutians just to respond to a major disaster is unaffordable. But that problem has been solved with the Resolve Pioneer, which will keep busy on various projects, and not just hang around waiting to respond to the major maritime disaster of the year.

Magone said the tug meets the minimum power requirements detailed in the Aleutian Islands Risk Assessment report, and could have handled the drifting Selandang Ayu. Financial penalties paid by the bulk carrier's owners have funded studies on shipping safety, as well as travel and other expenses for numerous committee meetings.

"With Resolve's added capabilities of personnel and equipment, it will now allow us to handle the increased potential of environmental threats to our region created by the significant rise in maritime activity," according to Magone, whose business is located on the newly paved Ballyhoo Road in the Dutch Harbor section of Unalaska.

"Dan Magone's background is amazing and we're really looking forward to adding his unique expertise to Resolve. There's no substitute for experience in our industry, and Dan sure has that," said Resolve president Joe Farrell.

"Equally important, we share the same moral rudder -- the good lord above," Farrell said in the news release that included a photo of them shaking hands in Magone's office with trophy heads of buffalo, muskox and a ram in the background.

Resolve provides wreck removal, marine salvage, safety training, marine engineering, and naval architecture on a worldwide basis.

"Magone Marine has operated out of Dutch Harbor for nearly 40 years, providing marine assistance and ship repair services in the Bering Sea region. It has evolved from a diving services company to become the premier locally-based provider of emergency response and vessel maintenance services in the area by growing to meet the needs of the developing marine transportation, fishing, fish processing, marine construction, site remediation and offshore oil industries," according to Resolve.

The research commission also heard of other local preparations for major maritime misfortunes, from Unalaska mayor Shirley Marquardt. She said a mooring buoy in Wide Bay in Unalaska Bay will now allow a secure moorage for distressed large vessels, because of limited local dock space.

Large cargo ships routinely limp into Unalaska Bay for repairs, while crossing the Pacific Ocean between Asia and North America.

"We get all the problem children" that malfunction on the Great Circle trans-Pacific shipping route, Marquardt said. "We didn't have anywhere to put them."

Ironically, the mooring buoy is anchored with the offspring of a famous problem child, the Kulluk.

Marquardt praised Shell Oil for donating three large anchors for the mooring buoy, once used by the oil rig Kulluk. The rig made the news in December and January when it ran aground near Kodiak en route to Seattle, while fleeing from the fear of Alaska state taxes.

Jim Paulin writes for The Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman, where this report was first published. Used with permission.