The state of Washington has renewed its contract with Crowley Maritime Corp. to station a rescue tug at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca during the winter of 2007-2008.
The rescue tug program, which began in 1999, was extended in July when Crowley signed a new agreement to station the Invader-class tug Gladiator at Neah Bay from October through mid-March. The 136-foot, 7,200-hp Gladiator is powered by two EMD 20-645-E5 diesel engines with two Caterpillar D 3304 auxiliary engines. The Gladiator can produce 75 tons of bollard pull ahead and 60 tons astern and is equipped with a Markey double-drum winch.
Protecting the pristine waters and the coastline of Neah Bay and Strait of Juan de Fuca is a top priority for the state.
“The many times that a rescue tug has been called into service illustrates how critical this service is for protecting our environment,” said Dale Jensen with the Washington Department of Ecology.
As the 2006-2007 winter season ended on May 3, the Gladiator had just finished its last escort assignment by assisting the 795-foot oil tanker Sanko Dynasty carrying a cargo of crude oil from Singapore safely through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Anacortes, Wash., after the tanker reported a partial failure of its primary steering system.
“Every time a ship is disabled at sea, there is a serious risk of a catastrophic oil spill,” said Mike Cooper, chairman of the Oil Spill Advisory Council, a state agency.
“If oil is spilled, the damage to our environment starts and oil spilled in this area is all but impossible to contain even during the best weather conditions.”
Approximately 7,000 tankers and cargo ships, some of which carry more than 2 million gallons of oil, sail through the Strait of Juan de Fuca annually.
State officials are considering funding a rescue tug at Neah Bay year-round. Joel Klenck, vice president of Crowley’s West Coast Services, noted that from a regional environmental protection standpoint, “A powerful tug like Crowley’s Gladiator at Neah Bay provides an important protective measure for our coastline.”