Maritime casualty news, January 2013

Storm in Gulf of Alaska causes drill rig grounding

A series of mishaps that began during a storm in the Gulf of Alaska resulted in the grounding of the 266-foot drill rig Kulluk. On New Year’s Eve, Kulluk broke away from its tow at about 2100 and ran aground on the southeast coast of Sitkalidak Island, off of Kodiak, Alaska. There have been no reports of pollution or damage to the rig and the U.S. Coast Guard is monitoring the situation.
     Weather on scene was reported at 60-mph winds and 35-foot seas.
     The situation started to escalate on Dec. 28. 2012, when the 360-foot ice-class anchor handler Aiviq briefly lost its towline with Kulluk in the rough seas. As a precautionary measure, two U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters removed Kulluk’s 18-person crew and flew them to Kodiak on Dec. 29.
     Coast Guard Sector Anchorage personnel coordinated a response with Royal Dutch Shell representatives after Aiviq experienced multiple engine failures while towing Kulluk approximately 50 miles south of Kodiak. Aiviq is owned by Edison Chouest of Louisiana and is under contract to Shell.
     According to a Coast Guard press release, the crew of Aiviq reported that they were able to restart one of the engines. Response vessels were diverted from Seward to assist the disabled vessels.
     Kulluk successfully received a new tow from the tugboat Alert on Dec. 28. On Dec. 31, when Kulluk was about four miles from land, the towlines were intentionally disconnected to avoid danger to Alert’s crew.
     Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews from Air Station Kodiak delivered engine parts and technicians to the crew of Aiviq at 0700 on Dec. 29. Aiviq’s engine failures were attributed to some poor quality fuel that had been isolated. Around 0930, the crew of Aiviq successfully made repairs to the damaged engines.

Fishing vessel loses power, runs aground off R.I.

The 65-foot fishing vessel Five J’s went aground in the vicinity of Brenton Reef near Newport, R.I., at approximately 1800 on Dec. 23, 2012.
     In a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, Five J’s operator reported the vessel lost power and its anchor was unable to hold. It is unclear why the vessel lost power.
     There were no reports of injuries or pollution. The Coast Guard is conducting an investigation into the incident.
     Five J’s was built in 1972 at Allied Shipyard in Larose, La.

Motor tanker hull breached after grounding in Hudson River

Motor tanker Stena Primorsk ran aground on the Hudson River near Stuyvesant, N.Y., Dec. 20, 2012.
     U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York was notified just after 0900 that the 600-foot motor tanker ran aground after it reportedly lost steering while transiting from Albany, N.Y. via the Hudson River, carrying light crude oil. Stena Primorsk sustained a breach to its ballast tank. The tanker was able to refloat itself and proceeded to Stuyvesant Anchorage for repairs.
     According to the Coast Guard, no pollution or injuries resulted from the incident. Coast Guard Auxiliary and New York State Police air crews have performed over flights of the Hudson River and reported no pollution in vicinity of tanker.
     At the time of the grounding, the vessel was loaded with about 279,000 barrels of crude, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Erik Swanson.
     The owners of Stena Primorsk have contracted commercial environmental response experts to monitor for any pollution and assist in the salvage of the vessel. The Coast Guard is investigating the grounding.

Casualty flashback: January 1906

SS Valencia was an iron-hulled passenger steamer wrecked off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, in 1906. The 252-foot vessel was en route from San Francisco to Seattle with 108 passengers and 65 crewmembers aboard.
     At 2350 on Jan. 22, 1906, SS Valencia had missed the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and struck a reef near Pachena Point on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island in thick fog and rough seas. The vessel broke apart against the reef, roughly 100 yards from shore.
     There were seven lifeboats available on SS Valencia, but most of them were lowered in haste and flipped over, killing the passengers. The official death toll was 136, with 37 survivors. The survivors were men who struggled to make it to shore and went in search of help. All of the survivors were male, as the women and children waited aboard the vessel for rescuers who were never able to reach the distressed vessel.
     Pacific Coast Steamship Co. purchased SS Valencia from the Pacific Packing and Navigation Co. in 1902. The vessel primarily transited a route between California and Alaska. In January 1906, the vessel was diverted to the San Francisco-Seattle run, temporarily replacing SS City of Puebla, which was laid up for repairs. On this new route, SS Valencia went aground off Vancouver Island as the result of a navigational error.
     Once word of the disaster reached Victoria, B.C., three ships were dispatched to rescue the survivors. The largest was the 300-foot passenger liner SS Queen, along with the salvage steamer Salvor and the tug Czar. Another steamship, SS City of Topeka, was later sent from Seattle with a doctor, nurses, and medical supplies. The ships arrived at the scene on Jan. 24. Weather conditions prevented them from getting close enough to SS Valencia.
     According to, there were two official investigations into the causes of this incident. Final reports were published in March and April. The reports agreed on the causes of the disaster — navigational mistakes and poor weather.
     The federal report called for the construction of a lighthouse between Cape Beale and Carmanah Point, and the creation of a coastal lifesaving trail to facilitate the rescue of survivors of shipwrecks in that area. In 1908, the Pachena Point Lighthouse was lit, and in 1911 work on the trail — later known as the West Coast Trail — was completed.

By Professional Mariner Staff