The U.S. Coast Guard is responding to a tugboat and dry cargo barge that ran aground in the vicinity of north Tongass Narrows, part of Southeast Alaska's inside passage, Wednesday evening, spilling approximately 1,100 gals. of diesel.
The 90'7"x28'5"x10'3" Samson Mariner, owned and operated by Sitka, Alaska-based Samson Tug and Barge, radioed Coast Guard Sector Juneau to report the grounding and a “minor” hull breach, according to the Coast Guard.
The Samson Mariner was carrying 30,000 gals. of fuel, and the barge, St. Elias, had 40,000 gals. of diesel on board, the Coast Guard said. Alaska Commercial Divers were called in to patch the tug's hull on Wednesday night, and Coast Guard pollution responders placed containment boom around the vessel upon arrival at the scene.
No damage to the 322' St. Elias was reported, and it was towed to Ward Cove for further assessment on Wednesday evening. On Thursday, the Samson Mariner was refloated and also towed to Ward Cove.
A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew conducted an overflight Thursday with Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Ketchikan personnel aboard to determine the extent of any possible sheen or environmental impacts. A sheen has been reported in the area and SEAPRO has been tasked with fuel containment and recovery using boom and absorbent pads.
“We are working closely with our partner agencies to recover as much of the spilled product as possible,” said Capt. Shannan Greene, Coast Guard Sector Juneau commander. “When spilled, this type of diesel spreads quickly into thin films forming patches of rainbow and silver sheens. We expect the sheen to break up within the next 12 to 24 hours, with scattered sheens potentially still visible under the low wind conditions forecast for tomorrow. Although not expected to impact sensitive areas or wildlife, we routinely collaborate with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to mitigate these risks."
According to a schedule posted on the Samson Tug and Barge website, the Samson Mariner and St. Elias were due to arrive in Valdez, Alaska on Feb. 21 as part of their regular sailing schedule between Seattle and Western Alaska.
According to Coast Guard records, the same barge was involved in a grounding incident in 2011 in Washington state's Rosario Strait.
No injuries were reported in Wednesday's incident. The Coast Guard is investigating.