A 134-foot barge is drifting in the Beaufort Sea and may be headed towards Prudhoe Bay after its towline snapped in Canadian waters during a severe storm Monday. The unmanned barge, carrying 950 gallons of diesel fuel, broke free from the tugboat towing it and began drifting west with the wind into US waters. The fuel tanks on board seem to be intact and there is no evidence of discharge. The barge’s owner, Northern Transportation Corporation Limited, (NTCL) notified the Canadian Coast Guard, who immediately issued a Notice to Shipping to advise mariners operating in the Arctic. NTCL is a Canadian marine operator and barging company.
The US Coast Guard is sending out an aircraft to determine the barge’s exact location and figure out where it’s heading and how fast. They’re also trying to figure out how to retrieve the barge.
Commander Shawn Decker, US Coast Guard Chief of Response, Sector Anchorage said it could be difficult because ice is forming fast on the Beaufort Sea, and officials have very few vessel options to retrieve the barge.
“We have a long history of working with our Canadian partners to accomplish these joint environmental protection missions,” said Commander Shawn Decker. “As the barge’s owner and Canadian coast guard forces continue to respond, we will stand by to assist in mitigating any possible environmental impact.”
Weather on scene is reported as 40 mph winds and 12-foot seas.
UPDATE BELOW: DRIFTING BARGE LIKELY TO SPEND WINTER IN BEAUFORT SEA ICE
Update on 10/29/2104
The US Coast Guard said the barge’s owner, Northern Transportation Company, has tried to retrieve the vessel but can’t find any available tugboats.