Sunday, December 27, 2009

What the Coast Guard Was Doing for Christmas

It began with a 136-foot tug running aground on the Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. Yes, that's the same reef that the Exxon Valdez smacked into almost 21 years ago. Initial report:
Coast Guard personnel from Marine Safety Unit Valdez, Sector Anchorage and Cutter Long Island are responding to a 136-foot Crowley tug grounding on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound Thursday.

The Pathfinder crew had completed an ice survey and was heading back to its port in Valdez when the vessel struck the reef Wednesday evening. Vessel Traffic System Prince William Sound personnel received a radio call at 6:15 p.m. from Pathfinder’s master via VHF radio reporting the grounding.

The Pathfinder cleared the reef and proceeded to deeper waters at about 6:50 p.m. Anchoring just south of Busby Island, the tug’s six crewmembers reportedly deployed 200-feet of fuel containment booms around the vessel.

Two of the tug’s centerline diesel fuel tanks were reported breached with a potential spill of 33,500 gallons. The total capacity of the vessel is approximately127,700 gallons of diesel fuel. None of the crewmembers were reported injured.

The tugboat Invader and oil recovery boat Valdez Star are enroute to the location of the grounding to offer any possible assistance.

Two divers were tranported by the landing signal craft Alaska Challenge. Divers conducted an underwater survey of the Pathfinder’s hull at approximately 2:30 a.m. but have not provided a report yet. A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak H-C130 Hercules aircraft is scheduled to conduct a overflight Thursday about 10 a.m.

Photo caption:
The Coast Guard Cutter Long Island, a 110-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Valdez, keeps watch of the anchored tug Pathfinder Dec. 24, 2009, after it grounded on Bligh Reef. The tug Pathfinder went aground on Bligh Reef Wednesday evening creating a light grey or silver diesel sheen spanning an area approximately three miles long and 30 yards wide approximately one mile east of Glacier Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charly Hengen.
Map of portion of Prince William Sound with a red arrow pointing to Bligh Reef:

Unlike the crude oil carried by the oil tanker, the ruptured tanks on the tug carried diesel fuel, which tends to dissipate more rapidly than crude.

After lightering fuel off the tug, it was cleared from the reef and in now moored at the Port of Valdez. Photo courtesy of John Engles via USCG.

UPDATE: Some webcam shots from Valdez:

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