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Derelict ship causes ammonia scare

Posted: January 3, 2013 - 12:08am

KODIAK — A derelict fish processing ship caused an ammonia scare in Kodiak when two crewmembers living onboard the vessel reported a leak.

Kodiak firefighters were joined by Coast Guard firefighters on Monday in responding to reports of a leak on the 169-foot Pacific Producer, according to the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Kodiak City Pier 2 was cordoned off for five hours.

Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used as a refrigerant aboard fishing vessels and in fish processing plants. It can cause severe lung damage if inhaled. High concentrations can be fatal.

Firefighters boarded the ship and shut all the valves connected to the ship’s ammonia system.

Subsequent tests found no ammonia circulating in the air.

A storm rolling through Kodiak both helped and hampered firefighters’ efforts. Winds gusting up to 52 mph whisked away the ammonia leak so quickly that firefighters were able to walk next to the boat without protective gear, and no evacuations were required.

The wind also prevented firefighters from getting an accurate reading on the size of the ammonia leak.

“We never got a reading because it was always going away from us, which was a good thing,” Kodiak deputy fire chief Jim Mullican.

The Pacific Producer has been tied up at Pier 2 for more than two months after its owner, captain and chief engineer all walked away from the boat. Kevin Briggs, the sole remaining engineer aboard the Pacific Producer, said he came aboard 3 months ago to help process fish, but the ship hasn’t seen a single fish and he’s ready to go home.

“It’s just been a nightmare, basically,” he said.

Last month, the Pacific Producer’s owner left Kodiak to find operating capital, and he hasn’t returned since.

“We’ve just been waiting for him to come up with what he calls ‘investment money,’” Briggs said.

Deputy Kodiak harbormaster Lon White said the city wants the ship gone.

“We’ve asked the owner to remove it from city facilities and they have not done so, either been unable or refused to. Regardless, it’s still at our facility,” he said.

___

Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com

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