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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Response crews successfully completed the salvage of the tug Polar Wind and its barge the Unimak Trader from Ukolnoi Island, 40 miles east of Cold Bay, Dec. 1.
“The teamwork between federal, state, local and tribal partners working together with industry resulted in an outstanding and professional response,” said Capt. Paul Mehler III, commander, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “The crews were able to resolve a complex and logistically challenging job without adversely impacting the maritime environment and ensured the safety of responders.”
Responders removed more than 13,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lube oils and refloated the Polar Wind at 3:30 p.m., Friday. It was towed to Sand Point where it was safely docked Saturday morning.
The barge, Unimak Trader, was refloated at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The crew is waiting for a break in the weather to safety moor the vessel in towed to Sand Point. Both vessels will undergo dive assessments and temporary repairs before being towed to another location.
Prior to the barge being towed, 97 refrigerated shipping containers, including 33 which contained more than 1,475,000 pounds of frozen seafood products, were transferred from the Unimak Trader to another barge and were safely delivered to Dutch Harbor.
“The extreme weather and sea conditions our crews faced, coupled with the remote location, introduced challenges that were largely overcome through the involvement of the local communities and fishermen,” said Kerry Walsh, marine casualty project manager and salvage master, Global Diving and Salvage. “Their expertise in the local conditions contributed greatly to the safe and successful outcome.”
“This has been one of the more successful recovery operations in the past few years,” said Steve Russell, state on scene coordinator, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. “We are grateful for a job very well done.”
The five-person crew of the Polar Wind was rescued Nov. 13 after the tug ran aground and began taking on water. The crew was reportedly attempting to recover the barge after their towline parted.
The fuel quantity aboard the Polar Wind at the time of the grounding was estimated to be more 20,500 gallons of diesel and the barge was reportedly carrying 1,800 gallons of diesel.
Response crews discovered that an estimated 6,000 gallons of diesel had leaked out of two port side fuel tanks on the tug that were damaged during the initial grounding on Nov. 13, but reported that the diesel had been dissipated by the adverse weather in the area and had not impacted local wildlife.