State-funded tug prepared to help tanker off Washington coast

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Dec. 3, 2009
09-283

OLYMPIA – The state-funded emergency response tug stationed at
Neah Bay was ready to respond to the aid of a 500-foot chemical tanker
that lost power Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009, off of the Washington coast.

The tug named Hunter was dispatched Wednesday night to assist
the Ginga Falcon, a chemical product tanker operating under a Panamanian
flag. The tanker was sailing from Vancouver, B.C., to San Francisco.

The Ginga Falcon was carrying paraffin wax, caustic soda (a
highly corrosive industrial chemical) and ethylene glycol (a toxic
liquid used in antifreeze and deicing solutions).

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) was notified of
the situation yesterday afternoon when the U.S. Coast Guard (Coast
Guard) requested the Hunter be placed on standby for the incident.

At the time of the Coast Guard request, the response tug had
already left its Neah Bay berth as a precautionary measure. Ecology then
directed the tug to proceed toward the disabled tanker.

The Ginga Falcon can carry up to 20,000 tons of cargo. However,
it was unclear how much cargo and fuel was onboard at the time of the
incident.

The tanker was about 45 miles off of Washington’s coast when a
pipe ruptured on a boiler that heats the ship’s engine fuel. After
several hours without power, the crew was able to repair the pipe and
restore the ship’s propulsion. The tanker then resumed its journey to
San Francisco at about 8:30 p.m. The response tug proceeded back to Neah
Bay.

An emergency response tug is stationed at Neah Bay year-round to
respond to shipping incidents that pose a pollution threat to the Strait
of Juan de Fuca and Washington’s outer coast. Crowley Maritime holds the
emergency response tug contract through June 2010.

“This incident involving an outbound tanker from a Canadian port
and the Nov 19, 2009, grounding of the 800-foot cargo ship Hebei Lion in
Canadian waters less than 10 miles from Washington’s San Juan islands
once again demonstrates how connected and potentially vulnerable our
shared waters are,” said Ecology Spills Program Manager Dale Jensen. “A
major oil or chemical spill has the potential to seriously damage
Washington’s economy, environment and quality of life. This is why we
maintain a 24/7, 365-day-a-year response capability.”

In March 2009, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill passed by the
state Legislature requiring Washington’s maritime industry to fund and
operate a tug year-round at Neah Bay beginning July 1, 2010. Jensen said
the legislation also directs Ecology to encourage Canadian shipping also
to help pay for the system.

Since 1999, a state-funded emergency response tug has been
called out 43 times to help vessels in distress.

###

Media Contact: Curt Hart, 360-407-6990; cell, 360-480-7908
(curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov)

For information about the Neah Bay emergency response tug:
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/response_tug/tugresponsemainpage.htm

Ecology Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Program:
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html

Ecology’s Web site: http://www.ecy.wa.gov

~ by fredfelleman on December 4, 2009.

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