The Coast Guard is leading efforts to contain and clean up fuel and engine oil spilled from a fishing boat that sank in southern Alaska.
The City of Seward harbormaster reported to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation that the Nordic Viking apparently capsized Dec. 9, spilling an unknown amount of fuel.
Although the cause of the sinking remains under investigation, the vessel could carry as much as 2,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel, plus a 500-gallon gasoline tank mounted on the stern deck — although its owner estimates far less was onboard when the boat went down.
“The Coast Guard’s main objective is to limit environmental impacts through the containment and cleanup of the release as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Capt. Sean MacKenzie, commander of Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, in a written statement emailed to Navy Times.
"We are working diligently with Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and contracted agencies to minimize the impact of this release.”
On Wednesday, Coast Guard crews observed sheening 1.5 miles south of the sunken vessel, with a light sheen also coating the nearby Scheffler Creek and lagoon.
That concerned conservation and response officials because “Fish Ditch,” its tributaries and the lagoon are where wild runs of sockeye and pink salmon occur, with spawning nearby.
Seward Harbor also is home to endangered Steller sea lions, fin whales and humpback whales, plus otters and two types of porpoises and minke and gray whales.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel began monitoring the slick’s potential effects on migratory birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds and loons, plus a large number of grebes, scoters, harlequins, bufflehead ducks, eagles and ravens and crows.
On Friday afternoon, its most recent update, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said that the sheen in Resurrection Bay and the harbor had mostly dissipated, with no reports of “oiled wildlife, live or dead."
The Seward harbormaster deployed an absorbent boom and a salvage contractor added a containment boom shortly after the 71-foot Nordic Viking sank. But the vessel shifted, pulling the containment boom under.
State responders on Dec. 10 deployed another boom and mylar balloons, which act as bird deterrents, in Scheffler Creek while contract divers plugged the hull fuel tank vents and retrieved the sunken boom, according to the incident report.
Coast Guard officials say that they opened the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which freed money to hire Alaska Chadux Corporation, an oil spill response organization, to fight the pollution.
On Dec. 11, Chadux strung a second ring of booms around the vessel and began periodically replacing the absorbents in the creek and lagoon as snow fell throughout the weekend.
Global Diving and Salvage, Inc., has been hired to finish salvage operations on the Nordic Viking.
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.