Tugboat aground near Sitka, diesel spill reported

    Tugboat Western Mariner aground near Sitka. Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Enviornmental Conservation

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - A tugboat owned by the Western Tugboat Company spilled an unknown quantity of diesel when it went aground Monday before 5 a.m. in Neva Strait, about 18 miles northwest of Sitka.

    A release from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says the Western Mariner has a maximum capacity of 50,000 gallons.  The company estimates that the amount of fuel onboard at the time of the grounding was 45,000 gallons.

    The port forward fuel tank, which is a known source of the discharge, is reported to have a 13,000-gallon maximum capacity.

    A broken silver and rainbow sheen was observed to cover approximately four nautical miles.

    The Coast Guard says the vessel was towing a freight barge when a temporary steering failure onboard the tug caused the barge to collide with the tug. The collision pushed the tug onto the beach causing the spill.

    The four crew members were safely transferred to a nearby vessel.  No injuries were reported.

    A dive and salvage crew from Hanson Maritime arrived on scene at about 8 a.m.  A single layer of containment boom has been deployed around the vessel. Other response vessels from Juneau and Sitka are headed to the scene with additional boom.

    The Coast Guard Cutter Hickory plans to be on scene Wednesday.



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