Neah Bay rescue tug finishes busy season

Department of Ecology News Release – May 03, 2007

OLYMPIA- The state-commissioned rescue tug at Neah Bay is finishing a busy 2006-07 season with a last-minute assist.

The 136-foot Gladiator tug was released at 5:30 a.m. today to escort a tanker experiencing a partial failure of its primary steering system. The 795-foot Sanko Dynasty is filled with crude oil and was headed from Singapore to Anacortes.

After this assist, the tug will stop providing service until next fall to rescue at-risk ocean-going vessels. The tug, Gladiator, under contract from Crowley Maritime from Jan.1 through May 3, 2007, and the Barbara Foss, under contract from Foss Maritime from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2006, has now responded to five incidents to help prevent disabled ships traveling through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the outer coast from drifting onto rocks and spilling oil.

The state-funded rescue tug service started in 1999 at Neah Bay and has been used a total of 34 times since being stationed at the western end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, one of the busiest vessel traffic areas in the Pacific Northwest. The pristine area includes the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the Olympic National Park and tribal areas.

Under the contract, Crowley Maritime provided rescue tug service for $8,500 a day plus fuel. State lawmakers gave Ecology $1.4 million with the goal of providing about 200 days of rescue tug service for the 2006-07 winter season.

State funding for the rescue tug has run out this season but the Legislature has funded a Neah Bay rescue tug for the 2007-08 winter season. State funding, however, is not guaranteed after next season.

“The many times that a rescue tug has been called into service illustrated how critical this service is for protecting our environment,” said Dale Jensen, who oversees Ecology’s spills program. “Any time a ship loses propulsion, steering or power, it runs the risk of running onto shore and springing a leak. That can happen to a ship at any time of the year.”

A major spill would damage Washington’s fishing and shellfish industries, further endanger salmon runs, kill birds and marine mammals, ruin public beaches, and dampen tourism.

Winter storms present a higher risk of oil spills from the more than 5,200 tankers and cargo ships traveling through the Strait each year. Cargo ships can carry more than 2 million gallons of fuel oil, and oil barges or tankers can carry up to 40 million gallons of oil.

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Contact: Kim Schmanke, public information manager, 360-407-6239

For more information about the rescue tug: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/hottopics/RESCUE%20TUG%20Summary/tugresponsemainpage.htm

~ by fredfelleman on May 4, 2007.

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