The U.S. Coast Guard responded to the sinking of an out-of-service tugboat on Wednesday April 19th at approximately 10:15 p.m. The 81-foot tug, POWHATAN, had been docked at the Samson Tug and Barge pier.
The vessel initially sunk to a depth of about 15 meters but then shifted. The downward sloping shelf carried the sunken vessel about 330 meters out in Starrigavan Bay to its current depth of approximately 60 meters (approximately 7 miles north of Sitka). The tug had been out of service for more than 10 years.
According to a situation report issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Powhatan was carrying 325 gallons of lube oil, 12 gallons of diesel, and possible sludge in the bottom of the main tanks.
The owner of the tug commissioned Southeast Alaska Petroleum Response Organization to recover any oil and conduct a shoreline assessment. SEAPRO is maintaining containment and sorbent booms near the vessel to contain any potential oil spills. Hanson Maritime has also been contracted to dive and survey the sunken tug. An underwater camera will be used to monitor the vessel location and potential discharges of petroleum.
The DEC report states that herring larvae, salmon fry and other marine life may be near the sinking, but there have been no reports of adverse impact to area wildlife.
What led to the sinking remains unknown. “There will probably be no determination until it’s raised out of the water,” said Lt. Jennifer Ferreira, a public affairs officer with Coast Guard Sector Juneau.