Friday, May 8, 2015

Crowley Tug Crew Commended by USCG

By Mark Edward Nero

Capt. Rodney Layton and his crew aboard Crowley’s Prevention and Response tugboat Alert were recently recognized by US Coast Guard (USCG) Capt. Paul Mehler III, sector commander captain of the port, for their “professionalism, courage, and flawless performance in extreme conditions” during the emergency rescue tow of the drill barge Kulluk off the southern point of Kodiak Island in late 2012.

Capt. Mehler was joined in late April by other USCG members during a public commendation ceremony in Valdez, Alaska, attended by five of Alert’s crewmembers. In addition to the Alert commendation, the USCG also recognized the crew of Crowley’s Invader class tugboat, Guardsman, for its assistance in providing logistical support during the incident.

The 10,192-horsepower Alert, which is typically used for tanker escorts to and from the Alyeska Valdez Marine Terminal, departed Valdez in response to the Unified Command’s request for assistance and arrived on scene to find Kulluk adrift at 4.5 knots in rough weather and sea conditions. The crew of Alert was able to catch a trailing line from Kulluk, despite having their deck awash by 30-foot seas, and proceeded to tie off and commence tow. The crew slowed and re-oriented the Kulluk’s drift so that the original towing tugboat could secure a connection to the drilling rig. However, with increasing heavy weather the original towing tug connection parted after about 10 hours.

Once attached, Alert remained tethered by emergency towline to the Kulluk and continuously maintained tow. With 54-foot seas and 40 to 50 knot winds, the Alert was being pushed backwards up to two knots toward the Kodiak Island shore. A day later, the Alert released the tow wire after being directed by Unified Command.

Crowley’s Valdez operation includes personnel and specialized tugs to help protect the environment through a contract with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System (SERVS). As part of the commercial partnership, the company provides tug escorts for tankers traveling through Prince William Sound to and from the Valdez Marine Terminal, and also provides secure docking and undocking operations at the oil product loading terminals. Primary tugs in the area include both Alert and Prince William Sound class vessels, all of which were specifically designed for tanker escort and assist work in the region.