Unified Command deploys crews to tug and barge aground near Cold Bay, Alaska

Coast Guard Alaska NewsANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Unified Command is deploying survey and response crews to inspect a tug and barge that are aground on Ukolnoi Island, 40 miles east of Cold Bay, Wednesday.

The crews will conduct dive surveys, assess the hull condition of the tug and use sonar to survey the area around the vessels. The crews will also tend to the boom around the tug, measure the amount of fuel onboard the tug and address any new pollution issues they encounter.

“Our first priority is to get the dive assessments completed to ensure the safety of all future operations in the area,” said Kerry Walsh, marine casualty project manager and salvage master, Global Diving and Salvage. “Today’s diving operations, tug assessment and area surveys will allow us to better refine our response plan to mitigate any potential environmental impacts and quickly salvage the vessels.”

The unified command is also staging crews and equipment in King Cove to respond once the area surveys are completed and weather conditions on scene improve.

“The safety of the response crews is our paramount priority,” said Capt. Paul Mehler III, commander, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “We are watching the weather very closely to ensure our personnel have as safe a working environment as possible while conducting salvage and recovery operations.”

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak-based HC-130 Hercules aircrew conducted an aerial survey of the vessels Tuesday and reported that the vessels remain aground and there were no signs of pollution, additional damage or visible wildlife impacts. The flyover was the first survey since Saturday due to a winter storm that passed through the area, which kept response crews from safely arriving.

An aerial survey conducted Friday detected a fuel sheen around the grounded tug. Response crews were able to quickly arrive on scene and deploy containment and absorbent boom to help minimize any environmental impact.

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.

The fuel quantity aboard the Polar Wind has been reported as more than 20,500 gallons of diesel and the barge is reportedly carrying 1,800 gallons of diesel and 90 refrigerated cargo containers, 30 of which contain frozen fish.

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