Coast Guard, industry partner to increase safety of marine traffic in Cook Inlet

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Coast Guard and industry representatives are working jointly to maximize ice observations in Cook Inlet for the safety of all marine traffic operating in the area.

Personnel from Marine Safety Detachment Kenai accompanied a Tesoro Alaska Company representative Friday on a chartered flight to conduct an ice patrol of Cook Inlet. The flights are conducted roughly once a week.

“The patrols provide an overall picture as to what ice formations, thicknesses and concentrations are occurring at various locations within the inlet,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Worral, Marine Safety Detachment Kenai. “This information is used to determine the implementation of the winter ice guidelines in the inlet, which affect local mariners and facilities.”

In addition to the aerial ice patrols Marine Safety Detachment personnel conduct daily patrols on foot and by car in Nikiski. They try to do these during the flood tide as the ice floes are heavier at the docks then. Coast Guard personnel also conducts periodic shore side spot checks of vessels moored at facilities in Nikiski to ensure they are taking appropriate mitigating measures.

Reports on ice conditions are supplied by the facilities in Cook Inlet, vessel operators and the Alaska Marine Pilots when they are operating on board vessels in the inlet. All this information is provided to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ice forecast office in Anchorage who publishes ice forecasts for Cook Inlet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The Coast Guard uses the reports and the ice forecast to determine the use of ice guidelines and additional safety measures to minimize the risk of a marine casualty to any of the vessels operating in Cook Inlet.

The push for increased vigilance in the inlet and the use of ice guidelines was a result of several marine casualties caused by heavy ice floes in 1999.

Since then a significant effort by both the industry and the Coast Guard has limited the number of serious marine incidents as a result of extreme ice conditions and allowed commerce in Cook Inlet to continue with limited interruption throughout the winter season. The grounding of the Seabulk Pride in 2006 caused the Coast Guard to revise the guidelines and increase ice conditions reporting measures.

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