Response crews have successfully completed the salvage of a tug and barge grounded east of Cold Bay, Alaska, with cargo that included more than 1.4 million pounds of frozen seafood products.
US Coast Guard officials said that responders removed more than 13,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lube oils and refloated the Polar Wind, which was towed to sand Point and safely docked, and that the barge Unimak Trader has been refloated.
Prior to the barge being towed to sand Point, 97 refrigerated shipping containers, including 33 containing more than 1,475,000 pounds of frozen seafood products, were transferred from the Unimak Trader to another barge and safely delivered to Dutch Harbor.
Kerry Walsh, marine casualty project manager and salvage master for Global Diving and Salvage, said the extreme weather and sea conditions their crews faced, coupled with the remote location, introduced challenges that were largely overcome through the involvement of local communities and fishermen, and that their expertise in the local conditions contributed greatly to the safe and successful outcome.
The five-person crew of the Polar Wind was rescued Nov. 13 after the tug ran aground and began taking on water. The crew was reportedly attempting to recover the barge after their towline parted. Fuel quantity aboard the Polar Wind at the time of the grounding was estimated to be more than 20,500 gallons of diesel and the barge was reportedly carrying 1,800 gallons of diesel. Response crews discovered that an estimated 6,000 gallons of diesel had leaked out of two port side fuel tanks on the tug that were damaged during the initial grounding, but reported that the diesel had dissipated in adverse weather and had not impacted local wildlife.
Local fishermen from King Cove lent a hand in the recovery by transporting survey and response crews working on the grounded tug and barge on Ukolnoi Island, about 29 miles east of King Cove.