The Coast Guard has prepared the way for a formal investigation into the sinking of the fishing vessel Alaska Juris in the Bering Sea in July.
A hearing begins on Monday in Seattle in which officials will interview witnesses, such as representatives of the company that operated the 229-foot trawler, and its crew. The hearing may last two weeks or longer.
That process is taking place in Seattle because the company behind Alaska Juris, Fishing Co. of Alaska, is based there, said Coast Guard public information officer Lt. Brian Dykens.
A crew of 46 abandoned the ship when it began taking on water more than 150 miles northwest of Adak in the western Aleutian Islands on July 26. Merchant ships rescued the crew members who abandoned the trawler in three life rafts.
After three days of searching by water and by air, crews could not find the ship. The efforts to find and recover it were called off.
"It hasn't been found since then. The Coast Guard assets were unable to locate it and the company has not found it either," Dykens said.
If a passing ship or a salvage company discovered the abandoned ship, they'd be required to make a report with the Coast Guard, which has not received any such report, Dykens said.
The public information officer declined to say whether additional information about the cause of the sinking has come to light, citing an ongoing investigation.
"Hopefully, the hearing helps us get a clearer picture or view of what happened that day. Once the investigation is complete, we'll release the information to the public," he said.
Crew members reported flooding in the ship's engine room, officials said at that time.
Fishing Co. of Alaska reported the ship could have had a maximum of 100,000 gallons of diesel on board, plus "miscellaneous lube oils."
Around the time when the search was called off, a rainbow sheen of unrecoverable diesel fuel was located in the search area, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
There have not been any other reports of sheens in the area, Dykens said.