Rescue tug with 9 days left sails to freighter’s aid

Article published Feb 28, 2008

By Jim CaseyPeninsula Daily News

NEAH BAY — The rescue tug Gladiator stood by a ship in distress early Wednesday in its sixth rescue of the winter season.

The tug is scheduled to leave Neah Bay in nine days.

The Coast Guard dispatched the Gladiator at 3:30 a.m. to a point just north of its home station, where the Star Indiana, a 651-foot bulk carrier, had lost propulsion because of a fuel pump failure.

Although the ship eventually regained power, the Coast Guard ordered it to be escorted while it was in U.S. waters.

The Gladiator transferred the escort to the tug Hunter, which took the Star Indiana to Constance Bay, British Columbia, where it arrived at 9:25 a.m. for assessment and repairs.40 ships in distress
According to the Coast Guard, the Star Indiana was the 40th vessel that the Gladiator or its predecessors in the rescue role had aided since spring 1999.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Ecology prepared to announce that the Gladiator will depart Neah Bay on March 7 — with no money appropriated as of Wednesday for a replacement.

The tug will cut short its stay by eight days from its planned March 15 departure because its funding was depleted by high fuel costs.

The Gladiator began the current winter storm season Oct. 1.

Last year, the tug remained in Neah Bay until early May.

The 136-foot, 7,200-horsepower tug costs the state $8,750 a day to stand by at Neah Bay.Foss bowed out
The Gladiator, owned by Crowley Maritime of Jacksonville, Fla., has been the rescue tug for the Washington state outer coast and the western Strait of Juan de Fuca since Jan. 1, 2007.

On that day, it replaced a succession of Foss tugs that had done rescue duty at Neah Bay since 1999.

Foss Tug & Barge of Seattle declined to renew its contract with the state because the company said it could make more money during a tug shortage in the Gulf of Mexico and Persian Gulf.

Ecology, environmentalists and Clallam County government officials all have urged continued funding for a year-round rescue tug, but the state Legislature has not responded.

Instead, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Shoreline, last year introduced funding for a year-round tug in her appropriations bill for the Coast Guard.

Earlier, she had introduced an almost identical scheme in her proposed Oil Pollution Prevention and Response Act of 2007.

That bill stalled in Congress, and Coast Guard appropriation was eclipsed by an omnibus funding bill.Rescue for rescue tug?
The state Legislature still could fund a rescue tug, although not the year-round vessel that environmentalists seek.

“We don’t know what the legislative funding package is going to hold for a tug for the upcoming season,” Kim Schmanke, an Ecology spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

“We’re looking for 200 days of funding, but it’s really difficult knowing where you’re going to end up.”

About 16 billion gallons of oil move through Washington waters each year.

An oil spill, according to environmentalists who spoke at a Clean Pacific Conference in Seattle last fall, would endanger:

  • Recreational fishing activities valued at $117 million a year.
  • A commercial shellfish harvest worth $59.3 million and a recreational harvest valued at $25 million annually.
  • Puget Sound-area tourism valued at $5.2 billion yearly.
  • Whale watching that generates $13.6 million a year, according to 2001 estimates, and bird watching that produces $1 billion, according to Audubon Society figures from 2001.________

  • Reporter Jim Casey can be reached at 360-417-3538 or at jim.casey@peninsuladailynews.com.

  • ~ by fredfelleman on February 29, 2008.

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