Neah Bay rescue tug comes to aid again

Peninsula Daily News

NEAH BAY – The rescue vessel Gladiator aided a tug towing a barge loaded with more than 2 million gallons of diesel fuel and 500,000 gallons of gasoline early Wednesday.

The 105-foot Na Hoku was headed down the coast when it lost its primary steering and electrical power about 12.5 miles off Cape Flattery, according to the state Department of Ecology.

It was the 36th time a rescue tug based at Neah Bay had aided a vessel in distress.

Just nine days earlier, the Gladiator had escorted the Kauai, a 720-foot container ship struck by 60-foot waves that smashed the windows from its bridge, damaging electrical gear and shutting down its primary steering system.

The Kauai was escorted to Seattle for repairs.

Ordered to Port Angeles
As for the Na Hoku, Coast Guard Capt. Steven Metruck ordered the Gladiator to escort the stricken tug 60 miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca until it could restart its generator.

The Na Hoku was able to maintain control of its barge, but Metruck ordered it escorted until it could tie up for repairs in Port Angeles.

“We and the state wanted to be sure to mitigate any threat to public safety and the environment,” said Metruck, captain of the port for Sector Seattle.

The tug is owned by K-Sea Transportation Partners LC of New Brunswick, N.J.

“This incident highlights why we have – and continue to need – the capability of responding to vessels that can pose a serious risk to our environment if they lose power or propulsion,” said Dale Jensen, manager of Ecology’s Spills Program.

“A 2.5 million gallon spill would have been catastrophic to our valuable marine resources. We need to maintain the safety net that the tug provides.”

Tug funded to mid-March
The Gladiator will depart Neah Bay in mid-March after state funding for it expires.

The state Legislature’s latest appropriation for the tug lopped about six weeks from its assignment because the state did not include the cost of fuel in the contract.

Crowley Marine Services of Jacksonville, Fla., receives $8,750 per day to return its 136-foot-long, 7,200-horsepower Gladiator.

Previous contracts kept a tug at Neah Bay until May.

The cut means the Gladiator will leave Neah Bay six weeks earlier than this year’s May 3 departure.

The Legislature has not appropriated funds for a rescue tug after March, and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s bill to fund the operation with charges to shippers is stalled in Congress.

~ by fredfelleman on December 13, 2007.

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