Drifting barge will likely spend winter in Beaufort Sea ice (UPDATE)

Ntcl Barge

(TUKTOYAKTUK, Northwest Territories) — A 134-foot barge that went adrift last week in the Beaufort Sea will likely remain there for the winter as the area becomes covered in ice, CBC News reported. The barge was returning to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, when it broke its tow during a storm. The U.S. Coast Guard said the barge's owner, Northern Transportation Company Ltd., has tried to retrieve the vessel but can't find any available tugboats.

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The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(JUNEAU, Alaska) (Oct. 24) — U.S. Coast Guard personnel and Canadian federal agencies, including the Canadian coast guard, Transport Canada and Environment Canada, are monitoring a 134-foot barge drifting in the Beaufort Sea after it broke free from its tow in Canadian waters during a severe storm Monday.

U.S. Coast Guard authorities were notified on Tuesday that the barge was drifting westward in the Beaufort Sea toward U.S. waters, based on computer drift models.

Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard Sector Anchorage response personnel are working with the owner to develop a response plan, and are standing by to assist.

The self-propelled, unmanned barge, carrying 950 gallons of diesel fuel, broke free from the vessel towing it and began drifting west with the wind. The barge's owner, Northern Transportation Company Ltd., notified the Canadian coast guard, who immediately issued a Notice to Shipping to advise mariners.

A Canadian aircraft located the barge in U.S. waters, drifting west, and began developing a response plan with the owner. U.S. Coast Guard aircraft from Air Station Kodiak will also be deployed to the Arctic Slope to continue tracking the drifting barge.

The visual confirmation of the barge indicated that the fuel tanks on board were intact and did not show any evidence of discharge.

Coast Guard Sector Anchorage command center watchstanders are broadcasting information about the drifting barge to mariners operating in the Arctic.

"We have a long history of working with our Canadian partners to accomplish these joint environmental protection missions," said Cmdr. Shawn Decker, chief of response, Sector Anchorage. "As the barge's owner and Canadian coast guard forces continue to respond, we will stand by to assist in mitigating any possible environmental impact."

Weather on scene is reported as 40-mph winds and 12-foot seas.

By Professional Mariner Staff