According to reports from the U.S. Coast Guard District 17 in Alaska, five crewmembers of a 78’x30′ tug, the Polar Wind, were rescued on Nov. 14, after running aground on uninhabited Ukolnoi Island about 20 miles east of Cold Bay. The tug was towing a 250′ barge, the Unimak Trader, from Sand Point, Alaska, to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. According to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the barge was carrying 90 refrigerated containers, 30 of which were operational and carrying about 1.5 million lbs. of frozen seafood. The other 60 containers are empty. The barge also carried 5,000 gals. of fuel on deck for a crane, a fork lift and generators. The tug was carrying about 18,500 gals. of diesel fuel. No spills have been observed.
The tug and barge are owned by Northland Services, Seattle, which has hired Global Diving and Salvage, Seattle, to respond. A unified command has been established to oversee the salvage. Alaska Chadux Corp., Anchorage, has been retained to respond to any pollution issues.
A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, deployed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Sherman, arrived on scene at 2:14 a.m. on Nov. 14 and safely hoisted three of the five crewmembers from the tug and transported them to Cold Bay. The Dolphin helicopter crew left their Coast Guard rescue swimmer with the remaining two crewmembers and an Air Station HC-130 Hercules airplane remained overhead to monitor the situation until an Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak arrived on scene and hoisted the two remaining crewmembers and the rescue swimmer and transported them safely to Cold Bay.
According to the Kodiak Daily Mirror, a weather buoy near the grounding site recorded 41 mph winds and 18′ seas, conditions that had kept other vessels in port. Running in the rough seas apparently parted the tow wire and the tug was trying to regain control of the barge went it went aground.