2,000 gallons of diesel unaccounted for after ferry Lituya's grounding

Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2009

JUNEAU - An ongoing investigation into the grounding of the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Lituya found approximately 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel unaccounted for following the vessel's Jan. 30 grounding on Scrub Island.

Courtesy Of Tyler Close And Tre Patterson Of Metlakatla High School
Courtesy Of Tyler Close And Tre Patterson Of Metlakatla High School

The 181-foot ferry broke loose of its moorings because of high winds. It ran aground near Metlakatla.

The only petroleum visible around the vessel after the grounding was a 5-by-75-foot sheen. AMHS representatives, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and other responders determined the amount of diesel that escaped was minimal.

However, during a subsequent review of logs and tank soundings, investigators discovered a the discrepancy of approximately 2,000 gallons of fuel. The Unified Command concluded that if the fuel had spilled into the waters of Port Chester, high winds and rough weather would have caused the spill to dissipate quickly, obscuring its magnitude and making recovery of the product impossible.

No fuel is currently leaking from the vessel, and none escaped during the tow to Ketchikan.

"While exactly what happened to the fuel is unknown, the fuel could have spilled through the starboard-side fuel tank vent when the vessel listed 10 to 15 degrees to starboard as the tide fell," said Cmdr. Scott Bornemann, deputy commander of Coast Guard sector Juneau.

A planned flight to search for diesel fuel in the area was delayed by inclement weather.

The Lituya is awaiting repairs at the Ketchikan Shipyard.

Marine highway officials said the ferry has damage to its port-side keel cooler. The cooler helps keep lower the temperature of a vessel's mechanical equipment by allowing sea water to pass over tubes that circulate coolant through the engine.

The vessel's port side No. 4 void also has a hole or hairline fracture. Inspections also are planned for the ferry's internal bulkheads and its steering and line shaft alignment.

Officials said repairs are not scheduled to start until this weekend, at the earliest.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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