Tug Assists Vessel Towing Fuel

Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Crowley Maritime Corporation's tugboat Gladiator, the state-funded seasonal emergency response tug stationed at Neah Bay, Wash., was dispatched last week to assist a tug towing a loaded oil barge after the vessel temporarily lost its primary electrical power and steering.

The Na Hoku was headed down Washington's outer coast when its primary electrical generator engine failed about 12.5 miles west of Cape Flattery. The 105-foot tug was towing a fuel barge containing more than two million gallons of diesel fuel and about a half million gallons of gasoline. Jensen noted the state has contracted to station a standby emergency response tug at Neah Bay since spring 1999. The tug has stood by or assisted 36 ships that were disabled or had reduced maneuvering or propulsion capability while transporting oil and other cargo along the coast and through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The actions helped ensure the ships didn't drift onto rocks and spill oil.

As recently as Dec. 3, Gladiator was dispatched after a 720-foot container vessel was struck by 60-foot waves near Cape Flattery that broke out windows on the ship's bridge, swamping electrical gear and shutting down the vessel's primary steering system. The incident with the Na Hoku occurred just before midnight Tuesday outside of the voluntary "area to be avoided" within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Na Hoku's main propulsion engines remained operable throughout the incident, and the vessel was able to maintain control of the barge tow and steering using its two propulsion engines during the power outage. The crew was delayed starting a backup generator for about an hour due to a separate electrical problem. The U.S. Coast Guard directed the tug to take the Gladiator as an escort. The response tug met the Na Hoku about eight miles west of Cape Flattery and accompanied the tug and barge into the Strait of Juan de Fuca for about 60 miles until both generators were back on line.

The Na Hoku and barge moored in Port Angeles to ensure that repairs are properly completed and systems are verified to be operating properly before they resume their voyage.

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