Salvage and Oil Cleanup of Aleutian Freighter Wreck Halted Until Spring
JUNEAU, Alaska Salvage and cleanup operations of a freighter that wrecked in the Aleutian Islands have been shut down until spring, the Coast Guard said Monday.
Salvage crews since January removed from the remains of the Selendang Ayu 127,784 gallons of intermediate fuel oil and 11,523 gallons of diesel, or about 30 percent of the fuel the freighter was carrying, Coast Guard Adm. James Olson said.
The rest _ more than 321,000 gallons of fuel oil and an unknown amount of diesel _ is presumed lost in the Bering Sea.
The Dec. 8 wreck of the 738-foot, Malaysia-flagged bulk freighter is the worst fuel spill in Alaska since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, which dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound.
The Selendang Ayu drifted powerless for nearly two days before grounding off Unalaska Island, where it split in half and spilled fuel into sensitive wildlife habitats. Six crew members were lost at sea when a Coast Guard rescue helicopter crashed.
The spill closed the Makushin Bay tanner crab fishery, and more than 1,606 dead birds have been recovered.
Kurt Fredriksson, acting commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, said shoreline oil removal was also being halted until the weather improves in the spring.
Both Fredriksson and Olson told Alaska lawmakers they considered the response to the grounding a success, considering the remote location and harsh winter sea conditions.
But Rick Steiner, a professor with the University of Alaska's marine advisory program, told a committee hearing that a risk assessment needs to be conducted on shipping traffic through the Aleutian Islands, and that a rescue vessel and tracking systems should be put in place.
Source: Associated Press