Unified Command photograph provided courtesy of Sandra Wilson shows Lituya aground, prior to refloating
Feb 5, 2009
Fuel unaccounted for after ferry grounding
An ongoing investigation into the grounding of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) ferry Lituya has revealed there is approximately 2,000 gallons of number two diesel fuel unaccounted for following the vessel's grounding on Scrub Island.
The 181-foot ferry, which provides service between Metlakatla and Ketchikan, broke free from its mooring at Metlakatla in gale force winds early on the morning of January 30, drifted and grounded on rocks. The tugs Cape Muzon and Ethan B pulled the vessel off the rocks at about 2:10 p.m. the same day, half an hour before high tide. After the vessel refloated, divers immediately conducted a survey of the vessel's hull and found no breaches.
Both tugs towed the Lituya to Alaska Ship and Dry Dock in Ketchikan where it is now alongside prior to repairs. Inspectors from Coast Guard MSD Ketchikan will supervise the repair process, ensuring the vessel meets federal safety standards before returning to service.
The only petroleum visible around the vessel during daylight hours on Januray 30th was a 5-by-75-foot sheen noted early in the morning, suggesting to AMHS representatives, the Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and other responders the amount of diesel that escaped was minimal. However, during a subsequent reconciliation of logs and tank soundings, the discrepancy regarding the approximately 2,000 gallons of fuel was discovered.
The Unified Command concluded that if the fuel had spilled into the waters of Port Chester, high winds and rough weather would have caused the spill to dissipate quickly, obscuring its true magnitude and making recovery of the product impossible.
No fuel is currently leaking from the vessel, and none escaped during the tow back to Ketchikan.
"While exactly what happened to the fuel is unknown, the fuel could have spilled through the starboard-side fuel tank vent when the vessel listed 10 to 15 degrees to starboard as the tide fell," said Cmdr. Scott Bornemann, Deputy Commander, Coast Guard Sector Juneau.
A planned over flight to ensure no diesel fuel in the area has been delayed by inclement weather.
After the vessel arrived in Ketchikan, AMHS personnel and Coast Guard inspectors from Marine Safety Detachment (MSD) Ketchikan discovered flooding in a forward void. The intrusion of water into the vessel is progressing at a rate that is easily offset by a portable pump.