On the morning of Wednesday, July 27th, crewmembers aboard OCEAN PEACE and SEAFISHER were focused on the harvest of Atka mackerel. Some 55 miles away, another trawler vessel, the ALASKA JURIS, was taking on water.
Upon receiving this distress call, the two vessels halted fishing and processing to begin the 6-hour journey to rescue the JURIS crew. All 46 crewmembers once aboard the JURIS were safely transported to the Aleutian Island port of Adak by Thursday evening.
“They said we got to go, and we’re on it,” said Todd Loomis, an official with Ocean Peace Inc., which operates the two factory trawlers.
Representatives with the Fishing Company of Alaska did not return a phone call seeking comment on what caused the JURIS to sink, though Coast Guard officials say that initial problems began in the ship’s engine room.
According to Coast Guard officials, the scheduled flyover to determine whether the abandoned JURIS is afloat was unable to take place due to aircraft unavailability.
The Alaska Juris was part of the head-and-gut fleet, a group of boats that catches and processes fish off Alaska. Over the years, these vessels have been involved in a series of serious incidents. To improve safety aboard the fleet, the Coast Guard implemented the “alternative compliance” program to improve seaworthiness and crew training.
Chris Woodley, a former Coast Guard official who worked to launch the program, emphasized that a primary focus was to ensure that crews has sufficient training on how to get safely into the water. The Coast Guard also required equipment such as boarding ladders to assist crews who had to abandon ship.
“I am just really grateful that the crew successfully evacuated and nobody was hurt,” said Woodley.