Efforts continued Thursday to safely recover diesel fuel from the 83' tug Western Mariner that ran aground in Alaska’s Neva Strait March 21, according to the Coast Guard.

A unified command of the Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and vessel operator Western Towboat is coordinating the response effort.

Some 3,000 gallons of diesel was pumped from a ruptured tank on the tug and approximately 850 gallons of fuel was recovered from the water within containment booms. It’s estimated 30,000 gallons of diesel remain onboard and will be pumped off prior to salvage operations, the Coast Guard said.

Western Towboat has contracted Hanson Maritime, SEAPRO, and Global Diving & Salvage to work on the scene for pollution recovery efforts and salvage planning. The Western Mariner was towing the Chichagof Provider, a 286' containerized barge, when the barge collided with the tug causing it to run hard aground and rupturing on of the tug’s fuel tanks.

The tug crew contacted watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Juneau command center at 2:55 a.m. March 21, and the initial response brought several vessels including tugs Banner and Salvation, and fishing vessel Nushagak Spirit to the scene.

The Western Mariner was secured in Neva Strait with no effect on other vessel traffic, according to the Coast Guard. No injuries were reported and all four crew members were safely transferred to a nearby vessel, after all the tug’s fuel manifolds were secured to isolate the ruptured tank.

An oil sheen was observed around the vessel and containment measures began, with state and federal resource agencies assessing potential environmental impacts, and the Coast Guard consulting with federally recognized tribes in the area. Coast Guard personnel used oil trajectory models to assess those environmental effects.

During the response effort, a small boat headed from Sitka to the grounding site Tuesday afternoon capsized in high winds and rough seas. All four persons on that vessel were recovered without injury and the capsized boat towed to shore, the Coast Guard said.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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