Neah Bay tug called to aid chemical tanker ship

NEAH BAY — The emergency response tug Hunter set out earlier this week to help a stalled, 500-foot chemical tanker before power was restored on the crippled vessel.

There were no oil or chemical spills from the Panamanian flagged Ginga Falcon as a result of Wednesday’s incident, state Department of Ecology spokesman Curt Hart said Thursday.

A pipe in a boiler that heats the heavy, sludgy fuel oil that powers the vessel ruptured between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday and was repaired by about 8:30 p.m., Hart said.

The vessel, which was headed from Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Francisco, was about 45 miles northwest of the Quilcene River in international waters when it broke down.

The Hunter, stationed at Neah Bay, had proceeded about 2 miles from Neah Bay and was still in the Strait of Juan de Fuca when the broken pipe was repaired, Hart said.

The incident is not being treated as an emergency tug “response” because the tug had just left Neah Bay and was on standby, he said.

The Coast Guard had requested the Hunter be placed on standby for the incident, Hart said.

“It was just about ready to proceed to its destination,” Hart said. “If the ship had not gotten power back, the Coast Guard and we would have deployed the tug,” Hart said.

The Ginga Falcon was carrying caustic soda, a highly corrosive industrial chemical; ethylene glycol, a toxic liquid used in antifreeze, and paraffin wax when the crew repaired the break.

The vessel can carry up to 20,000 tons of cargo, but it was unknown how much fuel and chemicals were on board, Hart said.

An emergency response tug is stationed at Neah Bay year-round. It responds to shipping incidents that pose a threat of pollution to the Strait and Washington’s outer coast.

The state-funded, emergency-response-tug contract is held by Crowley Maritime, based in Jacksonville, Fla.

Under a bill signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in March 2009, the tug will be funded by Washington’s maritime industry beginning July 1, 2010.

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Staff writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at [email protected]

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