With tug still underwater, Samson develops salvage plan

Until the tugboat is salvaged, SEAPRO is maintaining containment boom around the Powhatan and deflection boom off of Starrigavan Beach. (Photo provided by Samson Tug & Barge; May 19, 2017)

A Sitka tugboat that sank at the Samson Tug & Barge dock four weeks ago remains underwater at Starrigavan Bay.

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According to a situation report issued by the state May 25, initial estimates that the vessel contained 340 gallons of oil on board were incorrect.

Divers have found multiple spots where oil could have been released and have since sealed off those locations. The total amount of oil released from the Powhatan is unknown.

The Powhatan is currently surrounded by 1,500 feet of containment boom, with sorbent materials inside, and the shore is lined with 1,300 feet of deflection boom to protect Starrigavan Bay. Aerial images show decreased sheen within the containment boom and no additional oiling of the shoreline.

State and federal agencies are upholding their recommendation that harvesters not gather shellfish from Starrigavan Beach at this time. The situation report also states that, “There is the potential for [oil] exposure to marine wildlife, however no sea mammals have been observed by response teams or reported.”

Samson has developed a plan for wreck removal and pollution mitigation, which includes recovering fuel from the tug’s tank. So far, 4,335 gallons have been collected. The company also intends to bring a large crane from Seattle to lift the tugboat onto a barge. SEAPRO plans to have the Neka Bay – an Oil Spill Response Vessel (OSRV) with skimming capabilities  – on scene during the wreck.

Samson’s plan is being reviewed by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Coast Guard for final approval. The date for salvaging the Powhatan has not yet been set.