The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) — Suffering a marine casualty does not guarantee termination from operation. The Coast Guard evaluates each case and based on the risk to human life and the environment, makes a determination on whether the vessel may continue to operate safely with reduced capability.
In response to industry concern that reporting casualties would halt all operations Capt. Mark Hamilton, commander Sector Anchorage, Captain of the Port Western Alaska, stated, “We will evaluate each case based on risk. If we can safely keep a vessel out operating we will do so. Our intention is to safeguard life and the environment while facilitating commerce.”
Following a failure to appropriately report a marine casualty to the vessel’s propulsion system the crew of the 162-foot Seattle-based fishing vessel U.S. Liberator was required to cease fishing and come to port arriving in Dutch Harbor September 28. There was significant concern by the Coast Guard for the safety of the crew as the vessel was listing slightly and has no reserve propulsion should the second shaft or engine fail.
This incident is a reflection of what can happen when there is a failure to report a casualty. In two other recent incidents fishing vessels suffering marine casualties were allowed to continue fishing. Continued operation was allowed because the ship’s design had sufficient redundancy to make up for the loss of equipment and allow for the safe continuation of the voyage and/or due to the nature of the casualty.
“Open and honest communication is key to getting these vessels back underway,” said Hamilton. “We have no desire to impede anyone and affect their livelihood but we have a responsibility to maintain the safety of the fleet.”
On October 3 at 9:20 p.m., the 304-foot Seattle-based fishing vessel Island Enterprise reported a loss of steering due to a crank shaft failure in their number one generator that broke the block and took generator off-line for about 10 minutes. The vessel never lost propulsion. They had a sufficient number of generators on board to handle the load. The master anticipates returning to Dutch Harbor on or around October 11. The Coast Guard evaluated the risk of allowing the vessel to continue operations and determined it was acceptable. The vessel was not required to cease operations and come to port ahead of their schedule.
On October 6 at 10:40 p.m., the crew of the 109-foot Kodiak-based fishing vessel Seabrooke reported that they had lost one main diesel engine due to failed coupling but still had two operational engines. Again, the vessel has sufficient redundancy built into the system to warrant safe continuation of operations under Coast Guard purview. The vessel’s crew will put into Dutch Harbor on schedule on October 8.
On October 5 at about 2:20 p.m., the crew of the 221-foot Seattle-based fishing vessel Alaska Spirit reported that the vessel suffered a thrust bearing failure causing the crew to shut down the main diesel engine. The vessel was located 35 miles south of Seguam Island in the Aleutian Chain, 300 miles transit from Dutch Harbor.
Further operations are impossible until repairs are made because the vessel is a single engine design.
Currently the Alaska Spirit is in tow by the Magone Marine vessel Redeemer. They are located 29 miles north of Nikolski on Umnak Island. The crew has been maintaining a two hour communications schedule with the Coast Guard.
Three other fishing vessels stood by to render assistance if needed until the Alaska Spirit was taken in tow. The vessel has 47 people and 66,000 gallons of diesel on board.
Coast Guard personnel in Dutch Harbor will attend the vessel and monitor repairs once it is towed in. Expected arrival is midday October 9.
Certain casualties require immediate attention and a different level of response based on safety concerns. Failure to comply with these regulations may result in a maximum penalty of $27,000 or personnel action against merchant mariner credential.