2,000 gallons of fuel unaccounted for following ferry grounding

JUNEAU, Alaska – The ongoing investigation into the grounding of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) ferry Lituya revealed there is approximately 2,000 gallons of number two diesel fuel unaccounted for following the vessel’s grounding on Scrub Island.

The only petroleum visible around the vessel during daylight hours on Jan. 30th was a 5-by-75-foot sheen noted early in the morning, suggesting to AMHS representatives, the Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and other responders the amount of diesel that escaped was minimal. However, during a subsequent reconciliation of logs and tank soundings, the discrepancy regarding the approximately 2,000 gallons of fuel was discovered.

The Unified Command concluded that if the fuel had spilled into the waters of Port Chester, high winds and rough weather would have caused the spill to dissipate quickly, obscuring its true magnitude and making recovery of the product impossible.

No fuel is currently leaking from the vessel, and none escaped during the tow back to Ketchikan.

“While exactly what happened to the fuel is unknown, the fuel could have spilled through the starboard-side fuel tank vent when the vessel listed 10 to 15 degrees to starboard as the tide fell,” said Cmdr. Scott Bornemann, Deputy Commander, Coast Guard Sector Juneau.

A planned over flight to ensure no diesel fuel in the area has been delayed by inclement weather.

After the vessel arrived in Ketchikan, AMHS personnel and Coast Guard inspectors from Marine Safety Detachment (MSD) Ketchikan discovered flooding in a forward void. The intrusion of water into the vessel is progressing at a rate that is easily offset by a portable pump.

The ferry grounded on Scrub Island after breaking free of its moorings at the ferry terminal in Metlakatla during gale force winds early Friday. No passengers, crew, pets or vehicles were on board.

The Lituya is now alongside the Alaska Ship and Dry Dock in Ketchikan, where it will undergo repairs. Inspectors from Coast Guard MSD Ketchikan will supervise the repair process, ensuring the vessel meets federal safety standards before returning to service.

AMHS, a division of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, has worked closely with Coast Guard Sector Juneau and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation since the Metlakatla Police Department first reported the incident to state and federal authorities.

The ferry is the smallest in the AMHS fleet, providing twice-daily service between Ketchikan and Metlakatla.

Displaced Lituya travelers can contact the AMHS Juneau Central Reservations Office at (907) 465-3941 or (800) 642-0066. Additionally, updated sailing information may be found at the AMHS website at www.ferryalaska.com.

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