Tanker runs aground after ice floe strikes it

Less than 100 gallons of fuel was spilled near Nikiski dock

Posted: Friday, February 03, 2006

ANCHORAGE - A small amount of fuel spilled into Cook Inlet after an ice floe hit a tanker that was being loaded with petroleum products, pulling it off its mooring and damaging the tanker's fuel arm.

The 575-foot Seabulk Pride was docked Thursday in Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula when it broke free and ran aground about a half-mile away. Nikiski is 80 miles south of Anchorage.

The Coast Guard said less than 100 gallons of fuel was spilled.

Agency officials said an attempt to refloat the vessel would be made at high tide late Thursday with the rescue vessels on hand, which included three tug boats.

Additional tugs and a spill response barge from Valdez were en route to the site but were not expected until late noon Friday afternoon.

Petty Officer Steve Harrison of the Coast Guard command center in Juneau said the agency received the report at about 6 a.m.

The Seabulk Pride was struck by an ice floe and broke free from its moorings at 5:25 a.m., said Sarah Simpson, a spokeswoman for Tesoro in San Antonio. Tesoro has a refinery in Nikiski. The double-hulled tanker was being loaded with product when the incident occurred, she said.

"A large piece of ice floating in the channel - from what they tell me it was traveling pretty fast - struck the vessel," Simpson said.

The Coast Guard said the tanker was carrying several kinds of petroleum products, including 94,951 barrels of a thick residual oil similar in consistency to asphalt that was not processed at the Tesoro refinery. It also carried bunker oil, gasoline, heavy gasoline oil and diesel fuel. In total, the Seabulk Pride was carrying about 116,225 barrels of product, or 4.9 million gallons, when it broke free.

About five 42-gallon barrels of product was spilled, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Eric Chandler. About 125 gallons spilled on the ship and were contained. An estimated 75 gallons ended up in Cook Inlet. It was not immediately known which product spilled.

Chandler said there was some damage to the tanker's fuel arm, but otherwise the tanker appeared to be OK. There were 34 people on board the tanker at the time of the accident, including two pilots. There were no reported injuries.

"At this time, we still don't have any reports of damage or leaking in the hole," he said.

Simpson said the fueling was stopped when the tanker was hit by the ice and moved off its mooring. She said helicopters were flying over the area to assess how much fuel was in the water. The tanker's owner told Tesoro that the ship's cargo tanks were not breached, she said.

Harrison said the tanker drifted and made a soft landing.

"The tanker is aground on silt," Harrison said, adding that that was "a good thing."

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