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USCG Reports Problematic Fish Boat is Stabilized After Ammonia Leak

Pacific Producer
Problematic fish processing vessel has been laid up in Tacoma long before the current problem (Tacoma Mike/Twitter)

Published Sep 1, 2023 7:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that a dangerous ammonia leak from a problematic 77-year-old fish processing vessel with a long history of violations has been stopped. They however are still working to resolve other issues including the fate of the ship with a checkered history.

The latest problem was detected on August 13 after an inspection of the Pacific Producer by the Tacoma Fire Department. They detected elevated levels of ammonia from a leak aboard the ship with the Coast Guard saying it was a level that could cause burning in the eyes, nose and throat or watery eyes. A form of ammonia is commonly used on fish processing vessels both as refrigerant and in the processing plant. The Coast Guard said the concentration was below the toxic levels but was still of concern.

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, inspectors found several degraded ammonia tanks aboard the vessel. They said that gauges on the tanks had also been painted over and this is not the first time the ship has been cited for maintenance issues with its ammonia system. In 2018, the ship had a problem with its ammonia system, and in 2013 firefighters in Kodiak, Alaska were able to stop another ammonia leak using the shutoff values on the vessel.

The USCG ordered the ship sealed during the most recent incident and hired an independent contractor to determine the best means of handling the ammonia. Initially, they injected CO2 into the vessel to neutralize the ammonia and reported they were able to cut the leak rate in half.  Today, they reported that all ammonia has been removed from the Pacific Producer

During their inspection, the USCG however identified other problems on the vessel. They are reporting that crews have also now removed 20,000 gallons of oily water from the vessel. It was placed into hazmat tanks.

 

Coast Guard teams are working with a contractor to remove the ammonia and stabilize the vessel (USCG)

 

“There have been several incidents with the Pacific Producer,” said Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier during an interview with King 5 News in Tacoma. “It has a sort of a checkered history throughout here and Alaska, so we’re keeping an eye on it, and obviously our biggest concern is the safety threat it poses to the public.”

Built in 1946, and registered in the United States, the Pacific Producer was used as a seafood processing vessel. The ship is 169 feet long and 472 tons, and typically would sail to Alaska during season, but has been out of operation in part due to a long list of violations identified by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which proposed more than $200,000 in fines. The U.S. Coast Guard in February 2023 invalidated the vessel’s certificate of compliance, halting operations until repairs were made and it passed a new inspection. 

The vessel is now bordering on being considered derelict. The Coast Guard reports it is trying to determine the future disposition of the Pacific Producer and has been attempting to make arrangements with the vessel’s owner. If the situation is not resolved, Washington State would become involved if the ship is declared derelict.