Tanker reaches iced-in Nome

16 Jan

Alaskan town badly needs fuel


n a photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter lands their aircraft on the flight deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy just off the coast of Nome. (U.S. Coast Guard)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The ice that has cut off a remote Alaska town for months will connect it to the world again as crews prepare to build a path over it to carry fuel from a Russian tanker that was moored roughly 800 metres from the town’s harbour Sunday.

A coast guard cutter cleared a path through hundreds of kilometres of Bering Sea ice for the tanker as it made its way toward the town of 3,500 on Alaska’s western coastline, where residents are coping with their coldest winter since the 1970s.

The tanker got into position Saturday night, and ice disturbed by its journey had to freeze again so workers could create some sort of roadway across the 640 metres from tanker to the harbour in Nome, upon which they’ll rest a hose that will transfer 4.9 million litres of fuel. It’ll take about four hours to lay the hose, said Jason Evans, board chairman of the Sitnasuak Native Corp.

Workers on Sunday morning were walking around the vessel and checking the ice to make sure it is safe for the transfer.

A storm prevented Nome’s 3,500 residents from getting a fuel delivery by barge in November. Without the tanker delivery, supplies of diesel fuel, gasoline and home heating fuel in Nome are expected to run out in March and April, well before a barge delivery again in late May or June.

The tanker began its journey from Russia in mid-December and has slowly made its way toward Nome, stalled by thick ice, strong ocean currents and one of Alaska’s snowiest winters in memory.

It picked up diesel fuel in South Korea, then headed to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where it took on unleaded gasoline. Late Thursday, the vessels stopped offshore and began planning the transfer to Nome, more than 800 kilometres from Anchorage on Alaska’s west coast.

Now, residents await the final leg of the crew’s mission, which comes with its own hurdles: In addition to waiting for the ice to freeze, crews must begin the transfer in daylight, a state mandate. But Nome has just five hours of daylight this time of year.

Despite the complicated logistics of delivering fuel by sea in winter, Sitnasuak opted for the extra delivery after determining that it would be much less costly and more practical than flying fuel to Nome.

A coast guard spokesman didn’t know how long it will be before fuel flows as crews must wait 12 hours, or until about 5 a.m. local time Sunday to ensure that the disturbed ice has refrozen.

“We were able to successfully navigate that last bit of ice,” Coast Guard spokesman Kip Wadlow said.

“We were able to get it pretty much right on the money, in the position that the industry representatives wanted to start the fuel transfer process.”

Once crews create a suitable path for the hose to rest on, its segments will have to be bolted together and inspected before the fuel can begin to flow.

Though the transfer must start during daylight, it can continue in darkness, Betty Schorr of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has said. It could be finished within 36 hours if everything goes smoothly, but it could take as long as five days, she said.

Evans said once the hose is laid down, personnel will walk its entire length every 30 minutes to check it for leaks. Each segment of hose will have its own spill containment area, and extra absorbent boom will be on hand in case of a spill.

visit jettab.com for the popular JETTAB Android tablet



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: