Salvage team refloating F/V Pacific Knight

F/V Pacific Knight (Photo courtesy of Bruce Ilutsik)

A salvage team is in the process of refloating the F/V Pacific Knight this week. The ship sank on July 25. It had been operating in Bristol Bay as a tender during the commercial salmon fishing season. The United States Coast Guard has not yet determined what caused the vessel to capsize.

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An oil sheen emanating from the wreckage disrupted commercial fishing in the Nushagak District for nearly a week. It is still unclear how much fuel spilled.

The initial Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Report estimated that the Pacific Knight was carrying 800 gallons of diesel and 300 gallons of hydraulic fluid. However, in the week after the boat sank, a dive team with the Resolve Marine, the company contracted to salvage the boat, removed 1,400 gallons of fuel from the vessel.

“Because the numbers don’t actually add up, which is not actually that unusual to be honest with you, it’s real difficult to say exactly what got spilled,” Todd Duke, a Resolve Marine manager, said.

The company is now going through the labor intensive process of raising and refloating the Pacific Knight.

“The past few days we’ve been passing chains underneath the vessel and connecting them to our crane barge,” Duke explained. “We’ve turned it, and we’ve picked the vessel so it’s sitting somewhat upright now. We’ve been using a tool we call an airlift to remove sand and silt from around the vessel so that we can get the chains underneath, and we’ll continue doing some airlift and more chain connections to go ahead and lift this thing completely out of the water.”

Once the ship is lifted, Resolve Marine will attempt to stabilize it so it will float on its own. Then the Pacific Knight will be towed to Dutch Harbor where stakeholders can examine the vessel further.

Duke estimates it will take about a week to refloat, stabilize and move the boat. The USCG is continuing its investigation into the situation.