Coast Guard advises mariners ice season begins in Cook Inlet

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Due to the ice conditions in upper Cook Inlet near Anchorage, the Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Western Alaska, Capt. Mark Hamilton, has advised mariners the ice season has begun in Cook Inlet.

The ice guidelines this season have been revised to divide the inlet at the Forelands into two areas. The Captain of the Port will require all vessels arriving above the Forelands to submit a voyage plan no less than 24 hours prior to arrival at the Kachemack Bay Pilot Station once the guidelines are officially implemented.

These winter operating guidelines are designed to reduce the potential for casualties resulting from extreme frigid air temperatures and the ice impact on moorings and vessel systems. The ice guidelines are applied separately for the areas above and below the Forelands. Phase one refers to the inlet above the Forelands and phase two refers to the inlet below the Forelands. Each phase has specific guidelines. The specific guidelines are available by clicking on the link: 2008 – 2009 Operating Procedures for Ice Conditions in Cook Inlet.pdf

The ice guidelines will be put into effect through a safety advisory when the conditions develop that warrant mariners to follow them to reduce the risk associated with operating in ice. Last season the ice guidelines came into effect on November 15. The season before the guidelines were implemented on November 28. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ice forecast office publishes forecasts for Cook Inlet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

A letter regarding the revision of the ice guidelines has been distributed to vessels and facilities affected. When the guidelines are put into effect terminal operators will implement their own procedures as conditions warrant. The ice guidelines will be broadcast in a local notice to mariners until they are rescinded in the spring.

In February 2006, the tanker Seabulk Pride broke free of its moorings at the Kenai Pipeline Dock in Nikiski and grounded on the beach during a period of extreme ice conditions. Fortunately, the vessel was safely refloated and no spill occurred. Further operations were permitted by the Coast Guard on a case-by-case basis and the use of a spotter vessel was implemented for the remainder of the ice season.

Again this year the Coast Guard will be conducting increased shore side spot checks of vessels to ensure they are taking appropriate mitigating measures. These checks include the following:

– The vessel is moored correctly.

– All deck personnel have adequate winter protective clothing.

– Inspectors must witness a successful steering gear test.

– The wheelhouse and living quarters must be heated.

– An operational test of the fire, ballast and emergency fire pump must be conducted.

– An operational test of both the anchor windlasses and all deck mooring winches is conducted.

– Confirm that a heated medium is delivered to both primary and secondary sea chests that will raise the temperature to prevent icing.

– Confirm that all machinery and systems can operate in ice-filled waters and ambient air temperatures to -40 degrees.

– Ensure the emergency generator’s fuel tank is topped off and the generator is set to auto mode. Operationally test the generator by setting it to manual mode and back.

– Discuss with the ship’s personnel the requirement to maintain compliance with the prescribed ice guidelines while at the dock and during any voyages.

In recent weeks the Coast Guard met with NOAA, the Southwest Pilots Association, Cook Inlet marine operators and other industry partners with regards to ice guidelines and safe shipping through Cook Inlet over the winter season. This open dialogue provides a forum to assess and update the implemented ice guidelines phase as needed throughout the winter season.

For questions regarding ice guidelines please contact Lt. John Backus, Sector Anchorage, (907) 271-6700 or Lt. Mike Franklin, Marine Safety Detachment Kenai, (907) 283-3292.

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