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Grounded Tug Western Mariner Successfully Refloated and Towed to Sitka

western mariner
Western Mariner hard aground with her tow safely anchored in Neva Strait, March 21 (USCG)

Published Mar 31, 2022 11:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

The grounded tug Western Mariner has been successfully refloated from a shore in Neva Strait, on the west side of Alaska's Baranof Island, and has been towed safely back to Sitka for inspection and repair. 

In the early hours of March 21, Western Mariner's crew contacted the Coast Guard and reported that they had been in a collision with the tug's own tow, the 280-foot container barge Chichagof Provider. The impact caused the tug to run hard aground in Neva Strait, north of Sitka. 

The crew were unharmed, but one of the tug's fuel tanks was punctured, releasing an unknown quantity of diesel into the water. Aerial surveys showed bands of light sheen spanning the width of the narrow strait. 

In the days after the grounding, salvors opened and pumped out all of Western Mariner's fuel and lube oil tanks. The contracted salvor, Global Diving & Salvage, estimated the total quantity of fuel aboard at about 43,500 gallons, and 32,000 gallons of clean fuel were recovered from the tanks. An additional 11,600 gallons of oily water were recovered from within the vessel, and skimmers captured another 1,750 gallons of oily water from the surrounding area. 

After the successful refloat, a light sheen remained in the area of the grounding, and a containment boom was left in place to limit the spread of any fuel residue. Monitoring and cleanup efforts continue, including isolated beach cleanups using pressurized water, according to the state of Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). 

Due to the spread of the fuel, the DEC has closed the nearby area in Neva Strait and St. John Baptist Bay to fishing for shellfish, herring roe, or kelp. The strait remains open to vessel traffic while cleanup continues.