Crowley Crews Commended by Coast Guard for Assistance during Kulluk Emergency Rescue Tow
April 22, 2015
Capt. Mehler was joined by other USCG members including Sector Chief Gustin, CDR Lally, LCDR Reinhart and LCDR Franklin during a public commendation ceremony attended by five of Alert’s crewmembers, including Second Mate Brad Burger, AB Mike Mueller, OS Leroy Edenshaw, CE Craig Mathews and AB/Cook Walt Nickerson. Although Capt. Layton was unable to attend, USCG Capt. Mehler personally called to congratulate him on his leadership.
Crew members of Crowley's tugboat Alert receiving USCG commendation
In addition to the Alert commendation, USCG also recognized the crew of Crowley’s Invader class tugboat, Guardsman, for its assistance in providing logistical support during the incident.
Typically used for tanker escorts to and from the Alyeska Valdez Marine Terminal, the 10,192- horsepower Alert departed Valdez in response to the Unified Command’s request for assistance and arrived on scene to find Kulluk adrift at 4.5 knots in rough weather and sea conditions. The crew of Alert was able to catch a trailing line from Kulluk, despite having their deck awash by 30-foot seas, and proceeded to tie off and commence tow. The crew slowed and re-oriented the Kulluk’s drift so that the original towing tugboat could secure a connection to the drilling rig. However, with increasing heavy weather the original towing tug connection parted after approximately 10 hours.
Once attached, Alert remained tethered by emergency tow line to the Kulluk and continuously maintained tow. With 54-foot seas and 40 to 50 knot winds, the Alert was being pushed backwards up to two knots toward the Kodiak Island shore. A day later, the Unified Command directed the Alert to release the tow wire. Only after confirmation of the order, did the crew of the Alert reluctantly release the tow wire.
Crowley’s Valdez operation includes personnel and specialized tugs to help protect the environment through a contract with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company's Ship Escort/Response Vessel System (SERVS). As part of the commercial partnership, the company provides tug escorts for tankers traveling through Prince William Sound to and from the Valdez Marine Terminal, assuring safe passage, even under the most extreme winter weather conditions and also provides secure docking and undocking operations at the oil product loading terminals. Primary tugs in the area include both Alert and Prince William Sound class vessels, all of which were specifically designed for tanker escort and assist work in the region and feature best-in-class technology, firefighting, emergency and oil spill response capabilities. Annual emergency tow exercises of loaded tankers conducted by SERVS well prepared the Alert crew for the Kulluk rescue tow.
Crowley, which has been serving Alaska for more than 60 years, currently operates 22 fuel terminals in western Alaska and along the rail belt, with over 265 employees.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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