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Salvors refloat federal vessel that sank in Kodiak

Posted: February 12, 2013 - 12:01am
This undated image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research vessel Arlluk after it sank at the pier in St. Herman's harbor in Kodiak, Alaska, Friday Feb. 8, 2013. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Kodiak personnel responded to the sinking and are assisting with pollution mitigation and salvage of the vessel. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg)  PA3 Jonathan Klingenberg
PA3 Jonathan Klingenberg
This undated image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research vessel Arlluk after it sank at the pier in St. Herman's harbor in Kodiak, Alaska, Friday Feb. 8, 2013. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Kodiak personnel responded to the sinking and are assisting with pollution mitigation and salvage of the vessel. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg)

ANCHORAGE — A $2.5-million federal research vessel that sank while docked in Kodiak likely will not be repaired because of the high expense, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday.

The 63-foot Arlluk, used by two Alaska Peninsula national wildlife refuges, sank last week while tied up in St. Herman’s Harbor. The vessel was floated after less than 24 hours and towed to a boat yard, but damage from the saltwater and the cost to fix it likely means the boat will be scrapped or sold after it’s cleaned up, said Larry Bell, a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service

“That’s the initial thought, at least for now,” said Larry Bell.

The Arlluk was based in Kodiak and used by the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge and the Becharof National Wildlife Refuge for research on seabird and marine mammals. It also shuttled scientists to remote locations on the peninsula at the east end of the Aleutian Islands.

It was tied up Thursday night and harbormaster staff spotted it submerged at 3:30 a.m. Friday, on its side hanging precariously to cleats on the dock that kept it from completely going under, Bell said.

“I’m surprised it didn’t pull the cleats out,” he said.

Divers closed openings in the boat and salvors refloated the Arlluk by 9 p.m. Friday. Refuge staff members watched it overnight and it was towed Saturday to Fuller’s Boat Yard in Kodiak. A crane fitted with a sling lifted the vessel out of the water. It had not been boarded early Monday.

The agency will remove hazardous material on board, such as oil-soaked carpet, and will assess damage. That could range from electrical system damage to water in the engines, Bell said.

“It’s just too early to tell,” he said.

The vessel carried 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel and less than 10 gallons created a light sheen that was sopped up with sorbent pads and corralled by boom. The pads and boom have been removed, Bell said.

No obvious breaching of the hull was apparent and early speculation for the cause of the sinking has focused on a storage compartment in the stern.

“We think it leaked in through a port in the lazarette,” Bell said. The lazarette is used to store wet gear, such as nets, and contains a bilge pump that moved water through a port.

The vessel was built in 1979 and named the Caroline. The Drug Enforcement Agency seized the boat in the late 1990s. The DEA used the boat for about a decade as an undercover vessel.

The DEA in 2009 reclassified the vessel as government surplus. The refuges took ownership that year from the General Services Administration and spent $100,000 refurbishing the motors and foredeck.

The boat had a range of 600 to 700 miles. It is 16 feet wide and drafts 6 feet.

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