Tug boat reattaches to loose fuel barge off Alaska

AP News
Posted: Sep 22, 2011 1:23 AM
Tug boat reattaches to loose fuel barge off Alaska

Calmer weather allowed a tugboat to reattach a tow line Wednesday to a fuel barge that had that broken loose off Alaska's west coast, the Coast Guard reported.

The 82-foot tug Sinuk was able to hook up a tow line to the rear of the barge when winds dropped to 27 mph Wednesday afternoon, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally said. The tug has resumed pulling the 173-foot barge toward its original destination of Port Clarence, near Nome.

There's no reported damage to the barge and no evidence of pollution, Lally said Wednesday evening.

The tug had shadowed the barge overnight after it broke loose Tuesday evening in 15-foot waves and winds that reached 46 mph. It was about 46 miles north of the Kinugmiut Eskimo village of Wales at that point.

The Crowley Marine-operated vessel is carrying 140,000 gallons of aviation fuel and 5,800 gallons of gasoline. The Coast Guard sent a C-130 airplane to assess the situation earlier Wednesday and was keeping in close communication with the tug. Lally said a second 82-foot tug, the Siku, had also been sent out to assist when the barge was loose.

The Sinuk had been able to maintain some control by pushing the loose barge while crew members waited for the weather to improve.

The incident was first reported by KINY-AM.

By 11 a.m. Wednesday, the barge had drifted to 11 miles north of Wales. The village is on Cape Prince of Wales, which marks the Alaska side of the Bering Strait, a roughly 50-mile wide body of water that separates Alaska from Russia and the north Pacific Ocean from the Arctic Ocean.

Before it was recaptured, the Coast Guard had estimated the drifting barge would stay close to Alaska's mainland, possibly passing within eight miles of Fairway Rock, located about 216 miles northwest of Nome.