Monday, March 28, 2005

Tugboat Takes Disabled Processing Ship Under Tow

A Coast Guard cutter towing a disabled fish processing ship turned the vessel over to a tug Wednesday morning for the rest of the trip to a safe harbor. There are 204 people aboard the 325-foot Independence, which began drifting in the Gulf of Alaska on Monday after it lost its ability to steer in rough seas. The tug reached the Independence about 10:45 a.m. Wednesday and took over towing the ship to Cape Spencer and Juneau, the Coast Guard said. The vessels are expected to arrive in Cape Spencer on Friday before continuing about 80 miles east to Juneau, according to the Coast Guard. The ship's steering system failed in 20-foot seas with blowing snow and winds as high as 60 mph. The weather calmed Tuesday and improved even more Wednesday, except for some morning fog, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Gail Sinner. The Cutter Storis took the Seattle-based Independence under tow on Tuesday. Other than the failed steering system, there have been no reports of anything else wrong with the ship or any disturbances, Sinner said. The Independence--owned by Trident Seafoods Corp. in Seattle--ran into trouble about 7 a.m. Monday, when the port rudder failed as the ship was heading back to Seattle following the end of its cod season, said Trident attorney Joe Plesha. Crew members disconnected a hydraulic piston driving the damaged rudder. Later Monday, another piston controlling the vessel's other two rudders also failed. The system is not designed to operate on just one piston, Plesha said. The cause of the system failure is unknown. The Independence, a floating processor built in 1938, has a history of mechanical and other problems, according to Coast Guard records. Between 1994 and 2001, the Coast Guard investigated 10 incidents involving the vessel in Alaska, Washington state and Oregon. Seven involved mechanical problems and three involved discharge of oil, recotsf.JPGrds show.

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