Alaska Ranger Sinking Investigative Board to Continue Friday

SEATTLE – The Coast Guard (USCG) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Marine Board of Investigation into the March 23 sinking of the Alaska Ranger reconvened here today in the San Juan-Whidbey Room of the Red Lion Hotel at 1415 5th Ave.

The goal of the Marine Board is to identify the causal events of the casualty and provide recommendations to prevent or mitigate future casualties.

The board heard testimony from Cmdr. Chris Woodley, Dan Hardin, Martin Teachout and Lt. Prudencio Tubalado. Today’s testimony will help the board evaluate the safety standards required of the Alaska Ranger and whether the vessel met those standards.

Cmdr. Chris Woodley, a former Coast Guard Marine Safety Officer in Alaska, testified to his experience working with the commercial fishing industry and his participation in the implementation of safety regulations for all commercial fishing vessels in Alaska. Cmdr. Woodley explained that the Alternative Compliance and Safety Agreement (ACSA) regulations were put into place as a result of the industry’s loss of lives and property after the sinking of the fish processing vessel Arctic Rose, April 1, 2001, and the fish processing vessel Galaxy, October 20, 2002. Cmdr. Woodley also spoke of how adhering to many of the ACSA regulations likely prevented further loss of life in the sinking of the Alaska Ranger.

Dan Hardin, a Thirteenth Coast Guard District Fishing Vessel Safety Inspector, oversaw the implementation of ACSA and spoke about issues regarding the approval of the regulations. As part of the program, vessels would need to be ACSA compliant by Jan. 1, 2008 with some vessels being allowed extensions based on a case-by-case basis. Hardin stated the Alaska Ranger was not fully compliant with the ACSA regulations at the time of its last inspection.

Martin Teachout, also a Thirteenth Coast Guard District Fishing Vessel Safety Inspector, performed an inspection aboard the Alaska Ranger during a dry dock period in November 2007 in Japan. During that inspection, cracks and fractures were found in the bulkhead and tanks of the boat. Three valves were found to be deficient and were ordered to be repaired. Repairs were also ordered for the hull of the vessel. Teachout stated some of the work had yet to be completed when he left Japan.
Lt. Prudencio Tubalado, a Coast Guard safety examiner stationed in Japan, attended the dry docking of the Alaska Ranger along with Teachout. Lt. Tubalado participated in an external structural exam of the vessel and conducted an internal inspection of the port and starboard aft ballast tanks. There, he observed cracks he deemed necessary of repair.

The hearing will continue at 10 a.m. Friday at the same location, and is open to the public and the media. The proceedings will not be broadcast on television, radio or conference call. Video recording devices including still cameras are prohibited for the duration of the hearing. Cell phones are prohibited at all times. The use of unobtrusive audio recording devices is permitted to document the proceedings.

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