Cargo Vessel Disabled, Adrift in Bering Sea

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

A 738-foot cargo vessel bound for the United Arab Emirates is disabled and adrift in the Bering Sea.

The U.S. Coast Guard received reports at 10 p.m. on Thursday that the vessel Golden Seas had suffered a main engine failure and was in distress. The vessel was 70 miles north of Adak at the time of the call, and it has been drifting southeast at a rate of 2mph. Twenty crew members are aboard the Golden Sea, and no injuries have been reported.

The Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley was launched from Unalaska to assist the vessel, and the cutter Spar was also diverted. A C-130 aircraft and two helicopters have been dispatched from Kodiak to the Adak area. The icebreaker Tor Viking, which is currently operated by Shell, is carrying an emergency tow system and is also assisting in the effort to prevent the Golden Seas from running aground. Because of Adak’s distance from Seattle, support from Washington-based ocean-going tugs could take over a week.

Initial reports from the Coast Guard suggested that the Golden Seas was carrying a shipment of Canola oil from Canada to the United Arab Emirates. However, it has been confirmed that the cargo is instead canola seed. There are still 450,000 gallons of crude oil aboard, along with 11,700 gallons of diesel and 10,000 gallons of lube oil.

Because of the harsh weather and the vessel’s proximity to shore, there is concern that the vessel could run aground. Gale warnings are in effect through Saturday, and winds are expected to blow 54 miles per hour with seas at 30 feet. Still, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Dana Warr anticipates that the situation could be resolved.

Right now, response and rescue are the top concerns of the Coast Guard. But there is also concern that the grounding of the Golden Seas could cause serious environmental damage, much like the grounding of the vessel Selendang Ayu on Unalaska Island in December, 2004. Here’s Doug Helton, incident operations coordinator for the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration.

Coast Guard is in the process of doing a flyover of the Golden Seas, and is expected to have more information on the status of the vessel later this evening.

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