(Seattle, Nov. 29, 2001) – Crowley Marine Services successfully secured the wayward oil tanker Atigun Pass Thanksgiving weekend as it drifted within 20 miles of Oregon’s pristine coastline. The decommissioned Atigun Pass – similar to the Exxon Valdez in size at three football fields in length – was en route from a Portland shipyard to Shanghai, China, for scrapping when the towline from the Chinese tug that was towing it snapped. When the towline parted early November 19 the tanker was about 100 miles west of Tillamook.
“The vessel contained more than 20,000 gallons of residual fuel oil, too thick and sticky to be pumped from its tank, and there was potential for a medium size spill and a costly wreck removal if it ran aground,” said Todd Busch, director, ship assist and escort services.
Driven by wind gusts in excess of 50 mph and bucking ocean swells as high as 30 feet, four tugboat crews failed to regain control of the Atigun Pass Thursday. The vessel was traveling toward land at about 2 mph and was expected to come within 20 miles of Willapa Bay on Friday morning when Crowley was contracted to assist by Smit-Wijs, the Dutch company performing the tow. Crowley dispatched the 7,200 horsepower tugs Sea Venture and Sea Victory for the job, and coordinated with federal and state agencies under the command of the Coast Guard during re-securement of the vessel.
“Early Thursday morning the crew of the Sea Venture passed its emergency Spectra towline from the tug to the salvage crew on the tanker. The crew of the tanker was able to secure it to the bow so that Crowley could begin pulling the ship out to sea, away from the ecologically sensitive shoreline,” Busch said. “Clearer weather and calmer seas later in the day allowed us to re-secure the vessel to the De Da, the 350-foot Chinese tug originally hired to tow the Atigun Pass, with the emergency tow cable on the tanker.”
The Atigun Pass incident brought to mind memories of the New Carissa, a wood chip carrier that lost its anchor in a storm and ran aground off Coos Bay in 1999, eventually spilling an estimated 70,000 to 140,000 gallons of oil. Crowley also handled salvage of the New Carissa, and towed a 440-foot section of the ship to for scuttling with the tug Sea Victory. The stern of the New Carissa remains beached in the surf near Coos Bay.
Crowley’s background in salvage and wreck removal projects has been extensive over the years. Some of the recent emergency service projects the company has handled include the repositioning and disposal of the Ehime Maru off Honolulu, Hawaii; the extraction of the ship New Carissa from the beach in Coos Bay, Ore.; the salvage of the Hyundai No. 12 and Kiroshima, both of which ran aground in Alaskan waters; and the extraction of the ex-USS Tortuga from a marine sanctuary near San Miguel Island in the Santa Barbara Channel.
Crowley Marine Services, headquartered in Seattle, is a subsidiary of Oakland-based Crowley Maritime Corporation, founded in 1892. The corporation, primarily family- and employee-owned, is mainly engaged in worldwide logistics, liner services, contract towing and transportation, energy support services, ship assist and escort services, vessel management and petroleum and chemical marine transport. Additional information about Crowley its subsidiaries and business units may be found on the Internet at www.crowley.com.
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