Listing ship is finally set upright

Posted: Sunday, August 27, 2006

ANCHORAGE - The Cougar Ace - the huge car carrier that developed a bad list south of the Aleutian Islands - is finally upright and headed to Oregon in coming days.

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Crews are preparing to tow the ship to Portland, Ore., according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The Cougar Ace could be ready to leave Sunday or a couple of days after that, said Cmdr. Joe LoSciuto with the Coast Guard.

The ship keeled over onto its port side July 23 as the crew was attempting to adjust the ship's ballast water.

The Singapore government is investigating what made the ship list during the ballast change, which happened in international waters, LoSciuto said.

The Cougar Ace has been moored at Icicle Seafoods' buoys northwest of Dutch Harbor since tugs pulled it in Aug. 8. Workers finally stood it up straight Thursday night.

The Singapore-flagged ship was loaded with nearly 5,000 Japanese-built Mazdas sold in the United States. The inventory consisted of subcompacts and SUVS, Miatas and RX-8 sports cars, said Jeremy Barnes, a Mazda spokesman.

The vehicles were secured to the ship with a "single point device." Mazda assured the Coast Guard that the system had been tested to hold down vehicles twice as heavy, he said.

Mazda will have to examine the cars, Barnes said.

"We don't have a car count as to what is salable and what condition they are in. It all depends on what we find when we get in," he said.

A small sheen of lubricating oil leaked from the ship's bow thruster area Aug. 2 when it was still at sea, but officials haven't been able to determine why.

At the mooring on Unalaska Island, crews pumped out water from a cargo deck, where the sea had slowly leaked in from the cargo door ramp, and then used computer models to help determine how to balance the ship by adjusting water in ballast tanks, according to the Coast Guard.

Workers from Dutch Harbor-based Magone Marine Service Inc. also pumped out oily water from the bilge and shaft alleys. The oily water went into tanks for disposal.

The salvage is being managed by Titan Maritime.

A naval architect was killed when he slipped and hit his head while on the then-sideways ship. But all the ship's crew was rescued safely by the Alaska Air National Guard and the Coast Guard.

Singapore must certify the ship is safe for tow before it leaves port, he said.

Under the plan, two tugboats will bring it to Portland, where there are facilities for the vehicles and for ship repair, he said. The trip will take about 10 days.

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