Recovery efforts for grounded tug near Sitka continue

Nearly a thousand gallons of diesel have been recovered from the ruptured tank.

Recovery efforts for a tugboat that grounded hard and breached a fuel tank while bound for Sitka Monday continue.

Hundreds of gallons of diesel have been recovered from the water, and the damaged fuel tank has been pumped out, said Coast Guard public affairs specialist Petty Officer 1st Class Ali Blackburn.

“As of yesterday afternoon, they had recovered 850 gallons of diesel from the water,” Blackburn said. “They had managed to remove all the fuel from that specific tank so there’s no more fuel in that specific tank.”

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The incident occurred just before 3 a.m. on Monday in the Neva Strait, approximately 80 miles southwest of Juneau. The tug, the Western Mariner, is owned by Western Towboat, a Seattle-based towing company. A representative of the company declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

According to the Coast Guard, a 286-foot barge collided with the tug, causing it to run aground.

“We’re working with the tug owner, which is Western Towboat. They’ve contracted most of the assets for recovery,” Blackburn said. “Four people aboard but nobody was injured.”

Hanson Maritime, Global Diving & Salvage and SEAPRO have been contracted to assist in recovery and response efforts, Blackburn said. Assets are operating out of Sitka, which is located roughly 15 miles south of the incident site, Blackburn said. The ruptured tank has a capacity of 13,000 gallons of diesel, according to the Coast Guard.

“We have a unified command,” Blackburn said. “Unified commands are really important to incidents.”

The unified command includes Coast Guard District 17, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and Western Towboat, and helps to establish a coherent response, according to the Coast Guard. Federal agencies and tribal organizations have also been notified.

“They’re still out there. We’re continuing to monitor the cleanup efforts,” Blackburn said. “All we can do is continue to remove the fuel.”

During recovery operations, a small vessel participating in the response capsized due to heavy seas, but all four people aboard were recovered without injuries and the vessel was towed to shore, according to the Coast Guard.

The incident is under investigation, Blackburn said.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or