Grounded Alaska tug's rudder missing; boat may be leaking fuel

The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:

(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) — The unified command consisting of the Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and Northland Services is responding to a report of fuel sheen around a grounded tug and barge on Ukolnoi Island, 40 miles east of Cold Bay, Saturday.

Response crews have deployed containment boom around the tug to help minimize any environmental impact after an aerial survey was conducted and personnel reported a light, broken, rainbow sheen around the grounded vessels Friday.

“Upon receiving reports of the sheen in the water, the unified command activated their response plan to boom the vessels and minimize any environmental impact,” said Capt. Paul Mehler III, commander, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “The potential for maritime pollution has always been one of our primary concerns with this response, once reports indicated that we had an issue, response crews were able to quickly respond to the situation.”

Initial evaluations of the tug showed propeller damage and a missing rudder. It is unknown if the fuel tanks have been damaged, however the sheen is reportedly coming from the tug. The barge has at least five flooded spaces in the hull and remains hard aground. There are no cargo areas below the main deck of the barge.

The fuel quantity on board the Polar Wind has been updated to reportedly more than 20,500 gallons diesel and the barge is reportedly carrying 1,800 gallons of diesel and 90 refrigerated cargo containers, 30 of which are in use with a cargo of frozen fish.

The five-person crew of the Polar Wind was rescued Tuesday night after the tug ran aground and began taking on water. The crew was reportedly attempting to recover the barge after the towline had parted. 

Northland Services hired Global Diving and Salvage to coordinate and manage the response remove the threat of pollution, and salvage of the stricken vessels. Alaska Chadux is working under the direction of Global to respond to any pollution issues.

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To view previous press releases about the ongoing response, or the rescue of the crew, please visit the following links:

By Professional Mariner Staff