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Coast Guard reminds mariners of the dangers of snow loads on vessels in Alaska


A vessel at the dock in Valdez,
                                  Alaska, sank in 2009 resulting in a
                                  pollution response case. In subsequent
                                  years the harbormaster has removed
                                  snow to prevent sinkings but owners
                                  are ultimately responsible for the
                                  fate of their vessels. U.S. Coast
                                  Guard photo by Marine Safety Unit
                                  Valdez.  Hailey Thompson shovels the deck
                                  of the Dues Payer II in St. Paul
                                  Harbor in Kodiak, Alaska, Jan. 10,
                                  2012. "It's my dad's boat, and
                                  he's out of town," she said.
                                  Three boats sank in Kodiak harbors
                                  Tuesday after rain turned thick
                                  blankets of snow into heavy slush.
                                  Photo courtesy James Brooks.
VALDEZ, Alaska — The Coast Guard encourages harbor users to be aware of the dangers of snow loads on their vessels this winter in Alaskan ports. 
Every year Valdez gets hit hard with snowfall. In 2012, Valdez received more than 300 inches of snow by the middle of January. Mix rain with that and the snow load danger increases, especially on boats moored in small boat harbors. In years past, at least one boat per winter has sunk in the Valdez small boat harbor due to inattention to snow load or lack of proper maintenance. The same issue has affected vessels in the harbors in Kodiak, on the Alaska Peninsula and in Southeast Alaska.
“Valdez-based Coast Guard personnel conduct daily winter harbor patrols to identify boats at risk for reduced stability and sinking,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Susan Giambalvo, a marine science technician and pollution responder with Marine Safety Unit Valdez. “We are working in partnership with the Valdez harbormaster to take immediate action to remove snow from vessels that are at imminent risk of sinking. If costs are associated with that action, those expenses are the vessel owner's responsibility.”  
Here are a few steps mariners should take to ensure the safety of their vessel during periods of heavy snowfall: 
  • Remove snow and ice accumulation, including clearing scuppers
  • Check shaft packing for excess leakage
  • Perform routine checks for signs of loose or deteriorating planks on wooden hulled vessels
  • Conduct a routine inspection of automatic bilge pumps
  • Visually inspect all thru-hull fittings for damage or loose connections
  • Remove unnecessary fuel from the boat if you are going to be away for an extended period of time
  • Verify and update vessel owner contact information with the Valdez Small Boat Harbor
  • Arrange reliable snow removal for both the boat and the finger pier which it occupies all winter
For more information contact Lt. Allie Ferko at Allison.e.ferko@uscg.mil or 907-835-7209.
Saving Lives and Guarding the Coast Since 1790.
The United States Coast Guard -- Proud History. Powerful Future.


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