LNG carrier is towed to safety off Cape Cod

A tugboat assists the disabled 933-foot LNG tanker 33 miles east of Chatham, Mass.

A 932-foot liquefied natural gas carrier lost power and went adrift off Cape Cod after a boiler feed pump malfunctioned.

At least eight emergency response vessels and tugboats were sent to the Catalunya Spirit to ensure that the disabled ship didn’t pose a hazard.

Catalunya Spirit lost propulsion and became disabled approximately 35 miles east of Chatham, Mass., at about 0300 on Feb. 11.

Upon losing power, the vessel was not in any immediate danger and was drifting away from Cape Cod. Catalunya Spirit notified Coast Guard Sector Boston of the predicament. Capt. Gail Kulisch, captain of the Port of Boston, notified the National Strike Team and established a unified command.

The vessel was en route to the Port of Boston from Trinidad and Tobago to discharge its cargo at the Distrigas LNG facility in Everett. There were 18- to 20-foot seas and 30- to 40-knot winds when the incident occurred. The ship had 29 crewmembers aboard.

The unified command helped to coordinate towage and pollution-response assets. It included the Coast Guard, the vessel’s owner, Teekay LNG Partners of Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Technicians from Teekay and marine inspectors for the Coast Guard reached the vessel by helicopter on the afternoon of Feb. 11. The Coast Guard cutter Escanaba was dispatched to the scene, as were the Maine Responder, New Jersey Responder, Delaware Responder and the Atlantic Salvor.

The crew of Donjon Marine’s Atlantic Salvor gets a towline up to Catalunya Spirit before towing the vessel away from land.

By 2200, three harbor tugs, Iona McAlister, Freedom and Liberty took the stricken tanker in tow and stopped its southwesterly drift. All three tugs are owned by Boston Towing and Transportation, a subsidiary of the Reinauer Companies of New York.

Catalunya Spirit sustained no structural damage, and none of its volatile cargo was released, the Coast Guard said.

Atlantic Salvor, a 151-foot, 7,000-hp ocean tug owned and operated by Donjon Marine Co. Inc. of Hillside, N.J., took over the tow, slowly moving the LNG ship while repairs were being made. “We towed the vessel for a couple of days while it was being repaired,” said John Witte Jr., Donjon’s executive vice president. “They did not want to anchor and risk not getting the anchor up.”

Repairs complete, the vessel was then moved to an anchorage point about seven miles off Gloucester, the future site of the Neptune Offshore LNG facility. The Coast Guard felt that the Gloucester anchorage afforded the tanker more shelter.

By 1700 on Feb. 12, onboard technicians restored some of the vessel’s electrical power. The Coast Guard said that technicians “determined that a malfunctioning boiler feed pump, which supplies water to the main propulsion boilers, was the cause of the Catalunya Spirit’s loss of power and propulsion.”

The repairs were made and reviewed by Kulisch, Lloyd’s Register, the classification society, and Teekay. At 2040 on Feb. 15, approval was granted for the tanker to re-enter international service. The vessel proceeded to the Distrigas LNG facility to discharge its cargo.

“We are completely satisfied that the Catalunya Spirit is ready to return to service,” Kulisch said. “There has been a thorough review of every system onboard the ship, and I’m very impressed with the vessel owner’s unprecedented commitment to fixing the problem. … The public, the vessel and her crew and the cargo were never in any danger.”

By Professional Mariner Staff