Neah Bay tug escorts tanker into harbor after mechanical issues, weather cause detour on Calif. run


Peninsula Daily News

The state-funded emergency response tug Hunter, based in Neah Bay, escorted a fully loaded petroleum tanker to Port Angeles on Sunday after rough waters and a problem with its tug prevented it from continuing to California.

The Hunter met up with the tug Corpus Christi and barge Petrochem Supplier — owned by US Shipping Corp. — at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday about 40 miles southwest of the Columbia River entrance.

The Hunter stood by through the night in case the articulated tug and barge needed assistance, said the state Department of Ecology, which was also monitoring the situation.

Chad Bowechop, Makah marine affairs manager, said the move was evidence of the good cooperation among agencies.

“This kind of communication was not always there,” he said.

“Since the Makah Tribal Council has been involved, the protocols and procedures have really been developed and have worked very well in this case.

“We are very pleased.”

Bowechop said the Corpus Christi had failures in the hydraulics, which kept it from pushing the boat over the river bars in the rough waters on Saturday and early Sunday.

Because weather conditions were not expected to improve for several days, the Hunter accompanied the tanker to Port Angeles, where it could be evaluated and, if needed, repaired, he said.

The barge is loaded with about 150,000 barrels — 6.3 million gallons — of heavy vacuum gas oil, according to the Coast Guard.

Vacuum gas oil is a heavy residual oil from the petroleum refining process and behaves like a heavy, persistent fuel oil if spilled.

The Corpus Christi steers the ship from the stern — or the back part of the ship.

Problems arose when the lubricating system for the hydraulics — which push the ship — overheated, the Coast Guard said. They did not lose propulsion.

The Coast Guard said even if the locking pins on the system were to completely fail, the tug would be able to tow the barge using an emergency tow cable, but the second tug was called in as a precautionary measure.

The tug’s crew has reported no injuries or pollution.

The company and Coast Guard are taking all necessary precautions for a safe resolution to the situation, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

Since 1999, this is the 45th time a publicly funded Neah Bay response tug has stood by or assisted vessels, the Department of Ecology said.

The rough waters were part of the system that caused up to 70-mile-per-hour winds off the Neah Bay coast, but though the waters continued to be rough, the system had mostly passed by late Sunday, said Art Gaebel, meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

He said that another system out of Alaska will hit the North Olympic Peninsula today through Wednesday bringing rain, but the wind should be minimal, and snow should fall only in the mountains.

Because the rain system will be coming from the west it should hit areas of the Peninsula about the same without a rain shadow effect.

“It is pretty typical stuff — nothing like what we saw on Friday or Saturday,” Gaebel said.

Last modified: April 04. 2010 10:45PM

Reader Comments


Posted by Fred Felleman on Mon, Apr 5, 2010, 2:36 pm Pacific Time

Let’s hear it for a happy ending to the latest ship incident off the coast.

Two questions I’d like to see pursued are:

Which refinery did the Corpus Christy and the 6.3 million gallon barge, Petrochem Supplier, sail from and don’t they share in any responsibility for the poor decision to send the toxic load into the teeth of a well forecast storm to serve their California market?

Has a Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Puget Sound ever closed the entrance to the Strait for laden outbound barges due to forecast weather or sea state? These vessels are particularly vulnerable to weather-related problems and have been the source of our region’s largest spills. Such tug and tow combos are now able to carry “tanker-sized” loads with tug sized crews.

It’s worth noting that the Corpus Christy was offshore the Columbia River getting beat up in the storm for 24 hrs before the Neah Bay tug was dispatched.

In addition, there was another ship last week, a chip carrier like the ill-fated New Carissa of Oregon fame, that anchored off Ocean Shores to effect engine repairs with only harbor tugs nearby that would be hard-pressed to pass the Gray’s Harbor bar in a storm.

~ by fredfelleman on April 5, 2010.

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