Russian tanker Renda en route to Nome for historic fuel delivery
The Russian marine tanker Renda has loaded all available unleaded gasoline in Dutch Harbor and has departed for a voyage through the Bering Sea with an expected arrival in Nome on January 9. The final 300 miles of the voyage will be through sea ice. The United States Coast Guard ice breaking cutter Healy will escort the Renda on its mission to relieve Nome from an impending fuel crisis. The Coast Guard has conducted a Port State Control examination of the Renda and has certified it for operations in U.S. waters. The Coast Guard also certified some minor engine repairs Wednesday night that kept the Renda is the vicinity of Dutch Harbor several hours longer than expected.
The fuel delivery will be the first of its kind in the history of marine transport in the United States. The unique voyage was initiated when Sitnasuak Native Corporation (SNC) of Nome contracted with Vitus Marine to deliver the fuel after the scheduled fall fuel barge did not arrive.
The Renda had originally planned to purchase gasoline in Northern Japan, but a gale made that plan impossible. When the Japanese sourcing plan was dropped, Delta Western Inc. mobilized to develop a plan to provide the Renda with gasoline in Dutch Harbor. “We certainly appreciate the efforts of Delta Western in bringing product into Dutch Harbor earlier than planned, specifically so that it could provide us with much-needed gasoline,” said SNC Board Chairman Jason Evans. “We really appreciate their contribution to this operation.” The Renda was able to load gasoline in Dutch Harbor after the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security issued a waiver of the Jones Act for this voyage.
Sitnasuak is the Native village corporation for Nome and is owned by 2,400 Inupiat Eskimos who either live in Nome or who have family ties to Nome. SNC has signed a contract with Vitus Marine LLC to deliver approximately 1.4 million gallons of petroleum products to Nome via the Renda. In addition to the gasoline that was loaded at Dutch Harbor, the Renda is also hauling diesel fuel purchased in Korea. The fuel will be delivered in Nome to Bonanza Fuel Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of SNC.
Vitus Marine, LLC, is one of the three major companies that deliver fuel to Western Alaska. Mark Smith, the Vitus CEO, is a member of the third generation of a family that has been providing marine transportation services in Western Alaska for 80 years. He was born and raised in the Yupik Eskimo village of Aleknagik in southwest Alaska and served as mayor of that community for many years. Vitus was formed primarily to operate tugs and barges owned by Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) and to deliver fuel and other critical supplies to 100 AVEC generation sites in remote Alaska. “Vitus Marine is very proud to be part of an ‘all-Alaskan’ solution to the fuel crisis in Nome,” said Smith.
SNC and Vitus have been working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard on all aspects of the planned voyage and delivery. “The Coast Guard and the various other government agencies have really gone the extra mile in helping us execute this mission,” said Evans. “The entire community of Nome really appreciates their extraordinary efforts.”
The Renda is a double-hulled Ice Classed Russian tanker owned by the Russian corporation RIMSCO.