A rescue tug stationed at Neah Bay on the Strait of Juan de Fuca proved its worth in March by towing a disabled ship to Port Angeles, Wash.
On March 2 the Crowley tug Gladiator came to the aid of the 377-foot, 6,455-dwt refrigerator cargo vessel Khoral as it approached the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The State of Washington has contracted with Crowley Marine Services, based in Jacksonville, Fla., to station a rescue tug at Neah Bay during the winter months.
When the U.S. Coast Guard learned that Khoral was having problems, it ordered the ship to stay offshore until Gladiator could reach it. Capt. Don Zeagler, Gladiator‘s master, described what happened next.
“We were notified and started heading to the Khoral, but then they got the engine started and went further offshore, possibly to work on the engine. So we headed back into Neah Bay,” he said.
The next morning Khoral was again inbound under its own power. Gladiator was again ordered to escort the ship in.
The tug met the ship 25 miles off Cape Flattery, which marks the entrance to the strait. As the two vessels slowed down about four miles out to meet the pilot boat, the ship again lost power.
“We brought the Gladiator up under the Khoral‘s bow and put up a towline,” Zeagler said. “Meantime the pilot came out from the boarding area, which was very helpful for communications. We came up with the plan to enter the harbor, towed the Khoral into the Port Angeles harbor, got it slowed down and stopped. We picked up the towline, and the Gladiator then went back to the quarter and made fast to Khoral with three lines, so we had good control. Then we took the ship to the far end of the harbor and anchored it up.”
Standard procedures require vessels approaching the strait to conduct tests of critical equipment, such as steering gear and engine, and to confirm the ship’s ability to stop and reverse, Zeagler explained. “If there are any problems, the ship would require a tug escort.”
The rescue tug escort program funded by the Washington State Department of Ecology has contracted for standby tugs at Neah Bay since 1999. Since then rescue tugs have assisted 30 disabled ships traveling off the coast and through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, keeping them from drifting onto the rocks and spilling oil, according to Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Rick Rodriguez.
Crowley Maritime’s Invader Class tug Gladiator was on duty at Neah Bay from Jan. 1 and through April.