Partially sunk historic tugboat to be removed from Gastineau Channel

Written by Nick Blenkey
Historic tugboat Tagish

Tagish started its days as a Navy tugboat in Pearl Harbor. Now it's deemed a pollution threat

Later this week, efforts will get underway to remove a historic tugboat that is partially submerged at the National Guard Dock in Gastineau Channel, near Juneau, Alaska.

According to a local media report, the vessel, the 107-foot tug Tagish, was built in 1943 by Everett Marine Ways Inc., in Everett, Wash., for the U.S. Navy and served as fireboat replacement at Pearl Harbor, during World War II. The tug was sold in 1959 and passed through a variety of hands until 1978, when, then named Iver Foss, it was sold by Foss Maritime to Don Etheridge of Juneau who, for the past 25 years has been maintaining and restoring the historic vessel.

In a Facebook post, he says that the sinking was discovered at approximately 8:30 A.M. on December 29, 2022, by an employee of the harbor department.

“A 10-inch fire water main is suspected to have frozen and broke as the cause of the incident.,” says the post. “The vessel was checked the previous evening and there were no signs of anything being amiss. “

The Coast Guard says that Melino’s Marine Services, the contracted salvage company, plans to remove the vessel utilizing a barge and crane system that are currently enroute from Bellingham, Wash..

The operation is expected to take multiple days dependent on weather conditions. Once the vessel is removed, says the Coast Guard, it will be transferred via barge to an out-of-state disposal site.

Coast Guard Sector Juneau received a report on Dec. 29, 2022, that the Tagish was partially submerged with an observed oil sheen at the National Guard Dock in vicinity of the Alaska Marine Lines yard in the Gastineau Channel.

Personnel from the Coast Guard, City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and Melino’s Marine Services were involved in response efforts.

Containment boom was placed around the vessel to contain any residual oil or pollution. Melino’s Marine Services utilized divers to plug any holding tank vents to further secure the vessel from pollution discharge.

“This interagency collaboration highlights the importance of our federal, state and local partners in mitigating and removing pollution threats from our waterways,” said Capt. Darwin Jensen, commanding officer, Sector Juneau. “These relationships have been instrumental to the success of this planning effort.”

On Jan. 9, the Coast Guard federalized the response effort utilizing money from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to secure funding for the removal of the pollution threat. The vessel owner will remain responsible for the salvage disposal fees, says the Coast Guard.

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