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New tanker to ply inlet

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2008

A newly commissioned oil tanker specially built for transiting icy waters will soon begin operating in Cook Inlet.

Tesoro announced this week that the Zaliv Amerika, which is owned by the Russian company Primorsk Shipping Corp. and operated by Tesoro Far East Maritime Co., would transport oil to and from the Tesoro refinery, working between Cook Inlet and foreign ports.

After making its initial port of call at Honolulu, Hawaii, where U.S. Coast Guard personnel verified the vessel's documents and equipment status, the 104,535-ton, 774.5-foot Zaliv Amerika sailed for Alaska, arriving at Kachemak Bay on Sunday.

Monday, Coast Guard officials conducted a winter guidelines inspection, according to Lt. Michael Franklin, of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Kenai.

"We verified that the vessel has steam supply to the sea chest (to keep ice from clogging intakes for incoming seawater used for cooling), checked mooring winches, and made sure the crew had adequate winter clothing," Franklin said, adding that because the ship was built in Russia, the crew was ready for winter weather. "We also checked operations of the emergency generator and conducted a steering test."

The red-painted ship sailed out of Kachemak Bay at about 11 a.m. Tuesday headed for the KPL Dock at Nikiski.

The Zaliv Amerika, considered a medium-sized vessel, according to the Coast Guard, has a hull specifically designed for ice duty. Though bigger than the Seabulk vessels that have been operating in the Inlet, it will carry no more oil. Cargo capacity is regulated by Tesoro's spill response plans for Cook Inlet, according to Mike Munger, director of the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council.

Munger said the ship was constructed for plying icy waters and its foreign crew was well versed in the intricacies of winter sailing in hazardous conditions.

"It sounds like a pretty skookum vessel," Munger said Tuesday.

Kip Knudson, external affairs manager for Tesoro, said the fact the ship is winter-ready and able to serve foreign ports will give the company more flexibility. The Zaliv Amerika will bring oil to Tesoro from foreign ports. Outward bound, the vessel will take bulk oil from Tesoro to foreign ports; where will largely depend on price, Knudson said.

U.S. Jones Act rules bar the vessel from working between domestic ports, as the Seabulk vessels do.

The ship, built at Hyundai Shipyards in Uslan, South Korea, is under a three-year lease to Tesoro, he said. The Zaliv Amerika was commissioned in January.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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