Coast Guard: Problem in engine room led to flooding on boat


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A problem in the engine room led to flooding on board a fishing boat off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, forcing the crew to abandon ship, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.

The 46 crew members of the stricken Alaska Juris were taken to the port in Adak, Alaska, arriving late Wednesday morning, Adak city manager Layton Lockett said. The crew members did not require medical attention, he said.

Adak is about 175 miles (282 kilometers) southeast of where the Alaska Juris ran into trouble.

The Coast Guard said the crew will be flown to Anchorage. A message from The Associated Press seeking interviews with the crew Wednesday at an Adak inn where they were taken was not immediately returned.

The agency had planned to conduct a flyover Wednesday to see if the 220-foot (67-meter) Alaska Juris was still afloat and determine if any pollution has spilled from the disabled vessel. The Coast Guard later said no flyover will occur Wednesday because of the unavailability of aircraft.

The Coast Guard is asking mariners in the area to share updates on the vessel, civilian spokesman Cory Cichoracki said.

Coast Guard Lt. Joseph Schlosser said it’s not unusual for vessels to run into trouble at sea, given the “gigantic” size of Alaska, which has more coastline than the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards combined.

“I wouldn’t say it’s uncommon for a fishing vessel like this to become distressed,” he said. “But the uncommon thing is that this luckily went very well for this crew.”

The ship was listing at 5 percent when the crew members were disembarking Tuesday, Schlosser said, noting that was the last observation of the vessel. The incident is under investigation.

Conditions at the time were calm seas and limited visibility because of fog.

Coast Guard officials praised the response by the good Samaritan vessels. The Spar Canis and the Vienna Express heard the Coast Guard’s emergency broadcast for help and rushed to the scene. Also responding were two other merchant vessels, the Seafisher and Ocean Peace, which transported the crew to Adak. The Coast Guard initially said the other two vessels were taking the crew.

“The good Samaritans’ willingness to respond … was paramount to getting the Alaska Juris crew to safety,” said Lt. Greg Isbell, Coast Guard District 17 command duty officer.

Video footage showed one of the bright orange life rafts floating some distance from the stricken vessel, while another appeared tethered to it. The Coast Guard footage shot from an aircraft also showed a merchant ship in the distance.

On Tuesday, the agency diverted a cutter and dispatched two C-130 transport planes and two helicopters to the sinking ship near Kiska Island, which is about 690 miles (1,110 kilometers) west of Dutch Harbor, one of the nation’s busiest fishing ports.

The Alaska Juris is owned by Renton, Washington-based Fishing Co. of Alaska, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The company did not immediately respond to Associated Press for further information.

On Wednesday, recovery plans were underway by a salvage company, Resolve Marine Group. Project manager David Maruszak said the company is sending a 200-foot (61-meter) tug, the Resolve Pioneer, to the scene from Dutch Harbor. The tug is expected to arrive late Thursday or early Friday, he said.

It’s not the first trouble the Alaska Juris has encountered in recent years.

In March 2012, a fisherman aboard the boat died after a cable snapped and struck him in the head. Days later, another fisherman was treated for a head injury after a cable snapped again and hit him.

In May 2012, the Alaska Juris requested help from the Coast Guard after three crew members were exposed to ammonia from a leak. The agency flew the trio to Cold Bay, Alaska.

Another vessel owned by the Fishing Co. of Alaska, the 189-foot Alaska Ranger, sank in March 2008 about 130 miles (209 kilometers) West of Dutch Harbor. Five of the boat’s 47 crew members, including the captain, died. A Coast Guard investigation concluded in 2011 that the vessels owner failed to properly maintain its structural condition.

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