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Pathfinder Bligh Reef Grounding

The U.S Coast Guard-led Unified Command, including the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and Crowley Marine Services, Joint Information Office issued the following series of press releases regarding the Crowley Tug Pathfinder Grounding on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Gulf of Alaska, beginnning Dec. 24 and ending Dec. 27.

Pathfinder Response Winds Down


Dec. 27, 2009 - VALDEZ, Alaska - The tug Pathfinder was moored at Port of Valdez early Sunday morning after being safely towed from Busby Island in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Crews will begin to remove fuel from the vessel over the weekend. A limited amount of diesel fuel will remain on board in order to power ship systems while the vessel's damage is more fully assessed.

The results of the today's observation flight did not indicate any sign of fuel spilled during the vessel's transit to Valdez. Crews are decontaminating boom and recovered fuel storage tanks so they can be returned to standby service in local oil spill response inventories.

The Unified Command is maintaining oversight of the operations as crews shift from recovery of the Pathfinder, to equipment clean up and the damage assessment of the tug. The response will transition to project status at 6 p.m. Sunday.

"Crowley remains focused on removing the diesel fuel remaining on the vessel," said Jim Butler, Crowley information officer. "Once the fuel has been removed, Crowley will conduct a detailed damage assessment of the vessel."

"Response crews worked long hours during some of the shortest days of the year," said Steve Russell, environmental specialist with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. "Crews conducted their work with the highest priority on safety and environmental protection."

The incident is under investigation by the Coast Guard. Crowley is cooperating fully with the investigation while decontaminating the vessels and equipment used and demobilizing resources. Results will be available upon completion of the investigation.


Tug Pathfinder Safely Moored in Port of Valdez

Dec. 27, 2009 - VALDEZ, Alaska - The tugboat Pathfinder has been safely towed to and moored at the Valdez Petroleum Terminal in the Port of Valdez at 12:56 a.m., Sunday.

After a ten-hour approximately 20-mile transit through Prince William Sound, the Pathfinder is safely in Valdez. The return of the tug to Valdez further progresses the command's goal of safely and efficiently bringing the incident to a successful conclusion.

"Once the Pathfinder is secured at the pier, our next step it to assess the quantity of fuel recovered and lost," said John Engles, field State on Scene Coordinator. "We will continue to address any potential impact to the environment."

There have been no reported impacts to the shoreline or area wildlife.

"Now that the Pathfinder has returned to Valdez, we will focus on decontamination and demobilization of resources and further assessment of the vessel's condition," said Walt Tague, Crowley Incident Commander. "Crowley appreciates all the hard work of the responders and Unified Command over Christmas and under difficult conditions to get the Pathfinder back to Valdez safely."

Crews will continue working aboard the Pathfinder in the coming days to further assess damage to the vessel and removal of fuel remaining on the vessel.

The incident is under investigation by the Coast Guard. Crowley is cooperating fully with the investigation while focusing on decontaminating the vessels and equipment used and demobilizing resources. Results of the investigation will be made available once it is complete.

Lightering Completed on Tug Pathfinder, Towing Operations Commencing

Dec. 26, 2009 - VALDEZ, Alaska - Lightering of the Crowley tugboat Pathfinder has concluded after crews removed fuel from the damaged tanks aboard the vessel Friday night.

Crews were able to remove more than 49,000 gallons of a diesel water mix from the damaged fuel tanks.

Crowley response teams working with the unified command have conducted a scrub of any excess fuel from the exterior of the tug in preparation for towing the Pathfinder to Valdez.

The Pathfinder currently remains at anchor south of Busby Island and surrounded by two rings of containment boom with spill responders staged nearby.

"The joint response team has worked diligently to ensure all aspects of the vessel's transit plan have been addressed to ensure a safe evolution for both the responders and the vessel." said Cmdr. Darryl Verfaillie, federal on scene commander, and Coast Guard Captain of the Port. "We are now making preparations to tow the tug from its current location to the port of Valdez later today."

The Coast Guard Cutter Long Island will be enforcing a 200-yard safety zone around the tug while it is under tow to Valdez.

Coast Guard personnel from the National Strike Force have arrived on scene on Saturday morning to provide more technical expertise, personnel support, and towing assistance.

The incident is under investigation by the Coast Guard. Crowley is cooperating fully with the investigation while focusing on continuing to recover the diesel fuel and prepare for towing the tug Pathfinder to the port of Valdez. Results of the investigation will be made available once it is complete.

Lightering Begins on Tug Pathfinder in Prince William Sound

Dec. 25, 2009 - VALDEZ, Alaska - The Crowley tugboat Pathfinder remains at anchor south of Busby Island and surrounded by containment boom with spill responders staged nearby.

After suspending lightering Friday morning, the unified command authorized restarting lightering diesel fuel from the Pathfinder's two damaged fuel tanks. Lightering has commenced with good fuel flow as of 4:15 p.m. and is estimated to take between six and 12 hours.

Over-flights earlier in the day identified a 50-foot by one mile sheen that extends south of the Pathfinder's boom. The boom was temporarily compromised overnight. This afternoon responders have a secondary boom to assist in containing the diesel. Seepage from the Pathfinder is contained and is being recovered by the skimmer equipment in the boom. Openwater responders have deployed skimming systems staged both inside and outside of the boom to recover diesel fuel if it escapes the tanks open to the water.

Salvage operator TITAN Marine is on scene to further evaluate the damage to the tug in preparation for towing the Pathfinder back to the Port of Valdezfollowing lightering.

Coast Guard from the National Strike Force is expected to arrive on scene on Saturday morning to provide more technical expertise, personnel support, and towing assistance.

The incident is under investigation by the Coast Guard. Crowley is cooperating fully with the investigation while focusing on continuing to recover the diesel fuel and prepare for towing the tug Pathfinder to the port of Valdez. Results of the investigation will be made available once it is complete.

Diesel Fuel Recovery is Ongoing in Prince William Sound

Dec. 25, 2009 - VALDEZ, Alaska - The Crowley tugboat Pathfinder, which grounded Wednesday night on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound is still at anchor south of Busby Island and surrounded by a containment boom with spill responders staged nearby.

Early Friday morning, Crowley began lightering diesel fuel from the Pathfinder's two damaged fuel tanks. The pumping to remove the fuel started at 12:34 a.m. and stopped at 12:45 a.m. after the lightering team noticed a sheen developing on the surface of the water within the boom. The Crowley lightering team is assessing why the sheen surfaced before continuing. Every effort is being made to remove fuel from the tanks as soon as possible.

Over-flights today identified a 50-foot by one mile sheen that extends beyond the Pathfinder's boom. Six fishing vessels in consultation with TITAN Marine have been activated to support the response and are skimming the sheen now. The Coast Guard Cutter Long Island is also on scene and a broadcast notice to mariners is going out via VHF CH 16 requesting that vessels transiting the area to minimize their wake.

Yesterday's over flights identified a diesel sheen east of Glacier Island. The vessel Valdez Star immediately commenced skimming diesel in that area. Today's over flight by the Coast Guard no longer sees the sheen off of Glacier Island and no impacts to the wildlife have been reported.

Salvage operation TITAN Marine will evaluate the damage to the tug in preparation for towing the Pathfinder back to the Port of Valdezfollowing lightering.

Coast Guard Continues Coordination Efforts on Bligh Reef Grounding

Dec. 24, 2009 - VALDEZ, Alaska - Coast Guard C-130 aircraft and MH-60 helicopter crews from Air Station Kodiak conducted over-flights Thursday of the diesel spill in the vicinity of Bligh Reef.

The tug Pathfinder went aground on Bligh Reef Wednesday evening creating a light grey or silver diesel sheen spanning an area approximately three miles long and 30 yards wide approximately one mile east of Glacier Island.

Projections from both the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration along with the Ship Escort and Response Vessel System concur that the sheen is not predicted to go ashore Glacier Island over the next 24 to 36 hours and is rapidly dissipating.

This afternoon's over-flight images show the sheen to be light. The Valdez Star, an oil recovery vessel, continues to use oil skimmers to recover as much diesel as possible. The fuel is difficult to recover due to the light nature of the sheen. The diesel that is not recovered will dissipate naturally with wind and tidal action.

The unified command center consisting of the U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Conservation and Crowley Marine Services, Inc. are planning to remove the remaining fuel from the Pathfinder Thursday evening and is expected to last approximately eight hours. Following the lightering, the tug is scheduled to return to Valdez for a more comprehensive damage assessment. It will be escorted by spill response resources in case any sheening is detected while transiting to Valdez. A more accurate amount of diesel fuel lost will be available.


Unified Command Established for Pathfinder Grounding

Dec. 24, 2009 - VALDEZ, Alaska - The Coast Guard, State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and Crowley Marine Services have established a unified command and are working jointly to address the environmental impact and response efforts concerning the grounding of the tug Pathfinder Wednesday evening.

The establishment of a unified command is a way for agencies that share overlapping jurisdictions and responsibilities for an event and can manage the response from a single command post. A unified command allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional authorities and responsibilities to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability. Under a unified command, a single, coordinated action plan will direct all activities. The incident commanders will supervise a single command and general staff organization and speak with one voice.

Currently, the Coast Guard Cutter Long Island is on scene. Two Coast Guard Aircraft, a C-130 and an MH-60 helicopter have arrived to get aerial views of the situation.

The Valdez Star, an oil response vessel is skimming the water in the vicinity of the light silver diesel sheen. The sheen is 1 to 1.5 miles east of Glacier Island and is approximately 3 miles long and 30 yards wide.

The tug Pathfinder is still anchored and boomed off south of Busby Island. The vessel is no longer sheening and plan developments to lighter the tug Pathfinder are underway at the unified command center.

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