Coast Guard cleans wreckage of sunken vessel

It is unclear when the wreckage of the F/V Six will be pulled out of the Cook Inlet, however a U.S. Coast Guard-led team cleared the vessel of any remaining oil-based pollutants on Tuesday.

 

While there was a sheen on the water, there were no fuel or oil-based products left in the vessel’s tanks by the time the team reached the boat, said Federal On Scene Coordinator Representative Jonathan Alexander, a Marine Science Technician with the Coast Guard.

It is unclear whether contaminants had leaked into the inlet while the vessel was submerged, he said.

The F/V Six — formerly identified in August by Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Mooers as the “F/V Fix” — capsized near the mouth of the Kenai River Aug. 21, and with each tug of the tide has been dragged more than two miles along the shoreline between Kenai and Kalifornsky Beach.

Alexander said he had seen the ship identified as the F/V Fix in early reports, but all Coast Guard documentation now showed it to be the F/V Six.

Two days after the vessel capsized the 176 Air Wing Rescue Command Center, AKRCC showed its EPIRB distress beacon signal to be near Mile 13 on Kalifornsky Beach Road but the vessel was stuck in the mud off of the North Beach of the Kenai River near Forest Drive by Tuesday afternoon.

Despite the movement, Alexander said once the Coast Guard had removed contaminants from the vessel it became the owner’s responsibility to remove it from the water.

“It’s not a hazard at this time and not really a pollution threat,” Alexander said.

Petty Officer Shawn Eggert, a public affairs specialist with the Coast Guard, said if the boat was not a hazard to vessel traffic or a pollution threat the Coast Guard was no longer responsible for it.

“We’re going to keep aware of it because of the way the tide might shift, it might push it back into a position where it could become a hazard,” he said. “We’ll still maintain contact with it but past that their job out there is pretty much done at this point.”

It was unclear who would be responsible for determining whether the vessel was a hazard or a time line for its removal.

Eggert said Coast Guard personnel stationed in Homer would be the experts on what constituted a hazard and what parameters they were looking for, however Alexander — who is stationed in Homer — said that while the vessel fell under his office’s jurisdiction Coast Guard personnel there would not be responsible for determining whether or not the vessel was a hazard.

“We just report the location up to (Anchorage) and the waterways division would be the one that say if it’s a hazard to navigation or not,” he said.

To keep track of the vessel’s location, Alexander said his office would rely on the owner and staff visually verifying where the boat was when they were in the Central Peninsula area.

“We’ll lean heavily on the owner to give us positions on the vessel and the status of it,” he said. “It’s the owner’s responsibility at this point.”

Neither Alexander nor Eggert were able to identify the owner of the vessel; both said the case was still being investigated so the information was not available the public.

Coast Guard records show the F/V Six registered to and built by Lloyd W. Collins.

It is an aluminum-hulled 40-foot vessel currently registered as having a hailing port in Kenai.

The clean-up crew spent nearly five hours aboard the Six on Tuesday and Alexander said their efforts were paid for out of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The fund uses federally-appropriated money to pay for the response to discharges.

While the fund paid for the initial cleanup, Eggert said the vessel owner would still be billed to recuperate the money.

After spending several hours on the boat, which was listing to the side as it stood in the mud, Eggert said the cleanup “went as well as a response can go,” and was no longer a pollution threat.

 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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