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UPDATE: Tugboat and barge successfully floated after they were forced to beach at Clark’s Point

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Steve Aikins
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The master of the 61-foot tug Jackie M decided to push the barge, Skip I, back up on the beach and position the tug against it Monday night, so the crew could untangle the propeller at low tide.

Update Sept. 16, 2021:

The fuel barge Skip I was successfully floated Wednesday evening, according to Clark's Point Vice Mayor Steve Aikins, who said workers used a landing craft and bobcat to get the barge back on the water.

Updated article Sept. 15, 2021:

The tugboat Jackie M was successfully floated Tuesday night after it was beached at Clark's Point the previous evening, according to the city's vice mayor, Steve Aikins. 

So far, the water has been too low to float the fuel barge Skip I, Aikins said, adding that plans are in place to do so on the high tide this evening.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Nate Littlejohn said the 72-foot barge and the tugboat had just finished unloading fuel at Clark’s Point on Monday.

“The tug was in the process of pulling the barge from the beach when their port propeller became entangled in some line, which caused the port propeller to shut down,” he said.

The master of the 61-foot tug then decided to push the barge back up on the beach and position the tug against it, so the crew could untangle the propeller at low tide.

While the Coast Guard didn't have an official report on what, exactly, got caught in the propeller, Vice Mayor Aikins said it appears to be rope.

There have been no reported pollution or injuries, the Coast Guard says. Records indicate the fuel barge is owned by Vitus Energy of Anchorage.

Video courtesy of Steve Aikins

 
Original article Sept. 14, 2021:

Officials say a fuel barge was beached in Clark's Point Monday night, after its tugboat got tangled up in what may be fishing gear.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Nate Littlejohn said the 72-foot barge Skip I and the tugboat Jackie M had just finished unloading fuel at the Bristol Bay village of Clark’s Point.

“The tug was in the process of pulling the barge from the beach when their port propeller became entangled in some line, which caused the port propeller to shut down,” he said.

The master of the 61-foot tug then decided to push the barge back up on the beach and position the tug against it, so the crew could untangle the propeller at low tide.

It’s still too early to tell what the propeller got caught on.

“Early reports suggest that potential entanglement in subsistence fishing gear may have been the cause, or potentially a tow line may have been entangled with the propeller," Littlejohn said. "But it’s still too early to really know what caused this issue."

Littlejohn said Tuesday afternoon that the crew of the Jackie M is currently working to free the propeller and is checking in with the Coast Guard every couple hours.

“The goal would be to get the propeller untangled and refloat both vessels as soon as the tide allows,” he said.

Littlejohn said the extent of the damage to the engine is unknown. There have been no reported pollution or injuries, he added. Records indicate the fuel barge is owned by Vitus Energy of Anchorage.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that according to the Clark's Point Village Council, the barge was beached at Clark's Point, not Ekuk as originally reported. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.