Massive Cargo Ship Seeks Shelter in Unalaska

Friday, February 01 2013

Courtesy of Ed Page

At 1000 feet, the M/V Shin Onoe is longer than three football fields laid end to end.

Right now, the supersized, Panama-flagged cargo ship is operating with reduced engine power in the Bering Sea, and Unalaska is gearing up to offer the vessel safe harbor.

When it finally arrives in Unalaska next week, the Shin Onoe will be one of the biggest vessels to ever stay in port here. It’s 150 feet wide, with a 60-foot draft when it’s full of coal, soybeans, or iron.

Right now, it’s empty. It was traveling along the Great Circle shipping route to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, early this week to pick up cargo when its turbocharger failed, just west of Attu island.

Ed Page has been tracking the vessel for the nonprofit Marine Exchange of Alaska.

"She has less power than she normally would, so she can’t make good time or good speed," Page says. "She’s plodding along at about five knots through the Aleutians, through the Bering Sea."

As of Friday afternoon, Page said the Shin Onoe was about 600 miles northwest of Unalaska. He’s been feeding this information to the Coast Guard.

Lt. Jim Fothergill is with the marine safety detachment in Unalaska. He says his office is monitoring the Shin Onoe, too. Beyond that, though, Fothergill says there’s not much for the Coast Guard to do, but wait.

"We’re just making sure that there are plenty of tugs available to handle them and we’ve identified an anchorage area," Fothergill says. "And we’re watching the weather to see when we’re going to have a good window to bring them in."

The National Weather Service is forecasting 30 knot winds for the Eastern Aleutians through Sunday. The weather is supposed to clear up on Monday, with the Shin Onoe set to arrive Monday afternoon.

Rick Entenmann is a marine pilot who’s been coordinating the local response. He says there was never any risk of a grounding, or a spill, in the Aleutians. But the Shin Onoe is traveling so slowly -- at times, just one knot -- that it’s hard to maintain its steering.

That’s going to make it tough to get the giant ship into Unalaska. Normally, a disabled cargo ship would need two tugs. But because of the Shin Onoe’s size, Entenmann has been looking for a third to help out.

He says another marine casualty has tied up some of the best resources in the state.

"Shell has everything wrapped up right now," Entenmann says. "They have the Aiviq, which would have been a great fit for this particular job. The Coast Guard’s been looking, we’ve been wracking our brains out."

They finally found the tug Ocean Ranger, which is heading up from southeast Alaska to assist the local tugs. Those vessels will have their hands full with other shipping traffic around town.

Fothergill, with the Coast Guard, says that shipping traffic is part of the reason why the Shin Onoe won’t tie up at Unlalaska’s new emergency mooring buoy, just installed this winter.

"Because the emergency buoy is more if it is an actual emergency," Fothergill says. "Their ground tackle is sufficient, and we’re not really willing to tie up the emergency buoy with this bulker."

Once the Shin Onoe gets to Unalaska, it’ll anchor in Summer Bay -- well outside of town -- for a few days while its turbocharger is replaced.

Vessels don’t usually anchor in Summer Bay in winter, since it’s partially exposed. But given the special circumstances, the Coast Guard’s made an exception.

An earlier version of this story misreported the Shin Onoe's original destination. It was bound for Prince Rupert, British Columbia, not Prince William Sound.

TripleU on Tuesday, February 05 2013:

We all benefit from the cargo that these large ships carry - so no crying over spilled soybeans, oil, crude, bunker C or whatever. Humans make mistakes, Engines break down - that is life. - The Kuroshima, the Selendang Ayu - neither caused significant damage to the environment - only killing 1/10000th of the bird population, otter population or bairdi population on Unalaska Island- get real - these are not environmental disasters..... these are the results of Human overpopulation and the need for more and more foodstuff and raw materials to be shipped constantly to serve the 7 Billion people on this planet

John Adams on Saturday, February 02 2013:

Memory is short. Were the KUROSHIMA's anchors and chain "considered sufficient" before it grounded in Summer Bay? At least state and federal governments will ensure that SHIN ONOE's Certificates of Financial Responsibility are in order. And the Alaska Marine Pilots are busy measuring the sail area of the thousand-footer, calculating the force of various wind speeds on the bulker traveling in ballast. Will that ballast water be pumped out to reduce her 60-foot draft? Let's hope no one needs to go though HAZWOPER training again. Thank goodness Alaska legislators saw the value in funding the Marine Exchange's vessel tracking system when the feds couldn't induce private industry to build Rescue 21 in our vast maritime state. Puerto Rico and Guam qualify for the superior system, but not Alaska: We're lucky that Captain Page loves kayaking so much that he retired in Alaska. So long as the Coast Guard extends its contract with the Marine Exchange our Guardians will be able to track vessels in distress as far west as Atka and Adak by AIS. You can bet that before long the Marine Exchange crew will have AIS systems in place all the way out to Attu. Meanwhile, fair winds to SHIN ONOE's Master and crew.

aknman 49 on Saturday, February 02 2013:

These "vessels in distress" are becoming all too common and aren't really paying for the impact they're having on the economy of the area.

I think it's high time we started imposing a transit tax on ships circling along our shores but which are assuming none of the risk but benefiting very much from the rewards.

Tiny Schasteen on Friday, February 01 2013:

Yet again, Unalaska has the Port of Dutch Harbor to offer assistance to a Vessel transiting the Aleutian Islands! The Alaska Marine Pilots,the USCG Detatchment,The Illiliuk Family Clinic, The AMAZING Members of the Unalaska Department of Public Safety Firemen, Paramedics and Police Departmenbt,Private Docks and Mooring Bouy's, Public Dock Facilities, MachineHotel and Camp housing, Resturants, Mac Enterprises for literatge and Charter support, Port Officers, Air Freight and Passenger/freight services and many other valuable Resources! Well Done all! Keep up the GREAT WORK, Serving the whole spectrum of Marine Businesses in Western Alaska! Again WELL DONE! My thanks as well to KUCB Unalaska for the News! I DO realize this "MAY" be to LONG a comment. To those that remember Me.... well... You know! TRULY The Island Terriffic in the North Pacific!

Sharon Livingston on Friday, February 01 2013:

Why in the world would it anchor in Summer Bay? Why not anchor it on the mooring bouys?

Salvage Team "A" on Friday, February 01 2013:

errr - Summers Bay?? Oh well!!

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