Stranded cargo ship freed

No fuel lost during grounding of vessel

Posted: Monday, February 28, 2000

Divers today are checking the condition of a large cargo vessel that was refloated this morning after it spent about two days aground on a mud flat in Icy Bay.

None of the 176,000 gallons of fuel oil on board was spilled from the vessel Pacsun during the grounding or when it was refloated, Coast Guard officials said.

Each hour throughout the incident, the ship's fuel and ballast tanks near the stern were checked for seawater that would indicate a hole in the hull. None was found.

``I do not anticipate any bad reports coming back from the divers indicating the vessel is holed,'' said Coast Guard Cmdr. Rob Lorigan, who coordinated the response for the federal government.

The Pacsun, a 539-foot cargo ship, had loaded logs and was anchored near Point Riou Spit in Icy Bay when its captain reported Saturday morning its stern was stuck in soft mud, about three-quarters of a mile from shore.

The Liberian-flagged ship is operated by Lasco Shipping Co. of Portland, Ore., and was bound for Japan and Korea, the Coast Guard said. Icy Bay is about 70 miles northwest of Yakutat.

The location of the grounding was a concern, because of nearby wildlife and the bay's distance from response equipment, said Bob Mattson, the state's on-scene coordinator for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

``It was Alaska, Alaska at its best,'' Mattson said of the bay. But, he added, ``If we wanted to choose a spot farthest from anywhere, Icy Bay is it.''

At this time of year, the bay is home to shore birds, Dungeness crab, king crab and seals. Coho salmon are still spawning in two nearby streams, he said.

The potential for poor weather and the distance from response vessels were among the threats to the environment, Mattson said.

``A lot of planning was based on fairly daunting lead times in terms of the need to get equipment up there,'' he said.

But the weather was favorable throughout the incident, Lorigan said.

That meant the ship wasn't being bounced up and down in rough seas, which could crack the hull. Thanks to calm seas, the ship's crew was able to safely off-load about 2,000 tons of logs into the water, to lighten the ship so it could be refloated. And good visibility let coordinators fly to the scene.

A tug from Prince William Sound arrived on scene about 5 a.m. Sunday. Two tugs from Juneau, with containment booms, arrived about 2 p.m. Sunday after a 30-hour trip, the Coast Guard said.

An oil-response barge and a tug from Valdez were underway Sunday and are due to arrive today, after a 20-hour trip, the Coast Guard said.

Efforts to refloat the vessel Sunday failed. But at 6:30 this morning, with one tug holding its bow steady and two tugs nudging the stern, the Pacsun was refloated.

Divers are checking the ship's seaworthiness today. The ship will have to pass a steering and propulsion test in front of Coast Guard officials before it will be released.

Lasco will pay for the response, including state and federal officials' time. The Coast Guard is investigating the grounding.

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