Wednesday, January 17, 2007

All hands on deck

Monday morning’s harbour excitement was the front page story of Tuesday’s Daily News, with an extensive look at the response plan put in place to assist three ships in the harbour suffering the effects of the heavy winds Monday.

Crews work for hours securing three cargo ships as 100 km/h winds hit
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Pages one and two

It took a flotilla of vessels to wrestle Mother Nature Monday morning, as two grain tankers began dragging their anchors around Prince Rupert harbour and a third grounded on mud banks.

White caps and winds blowing down off the mountain at 50 to 55 knots (just over 100 kilometres per hour,) began pushing around the vessels Lauretta, Wu Chang Hai, and Pacific Paradise just before dawn.

“When you get these high winds that swoop down from the mountains at 50 to 55 knots, it puts tremendous strain on the anchor and even in the best holding ground, the ship will drag anchor,” said Gary Paulson, director of operations and security for Prince Rupert Port Authority.

More than 30 people – including the crew of six tugs, the Prince Rupert Port Authority, Canadian Coast Guard, and Pacific Pilotage Authority – worked quickly to get the 1,000 foot long tankers back to their anchors before the dangerous situation could develop further.

“I’ve been up here three months on the job, I’m new to the area, but I am going to tell you from my background as a retired Navy captain, I was really impressed with the teamwork of everybody pulling together,” said Paulson.

The whole thing started when the port authority received a call around 6:55 a. m. that the Lauretta, an empty grain tanker recently arrived in port, was dragging her anchor.

“Dave Fisher (manager of operations for the Prince Rupert Port Authority) and I came down to the waterfront and we could see the Pacific Paradise looked like she was starting to drag her anchor as well. And then a little later on the Wu Chang Hai started dragging her anchor around…” said Paulson.

They mobilized a team that included the CCG Point Henry, and tugs from Smit Marine and Minette Bay, and got the two pilots out on the vessels.

Unfortunately, the Pacific Paradise didn’t really recognize she was doing more than moving with the heavy winds.
“By the time the master finally appreciated he was dragging his anchor, he couldn’t get his anchor back holding again. At 7:55 a. m. the Pacific Paradise went aground on the mud banks on the northwest side of Douglas Point,” said Paulson.

Fortunately, Mother Nature wasn’t entirely set against them - the tide was incoming and they were able to get a pilot on board, raise the ship off the mud banks and pull her back to her anchor before any visible damage had occurred.

“She was close to the rocks but didn’t touch the rocks. Visual inspections both at anchor and now that we’ve got her alongside here at Northland indicate there was no damage but we won’t really know that until we send the divers down on Wednesday,” said Paulson.

Meanwhile, the remaining pilot was moving back and forth between the Laurette and Wu Chang Hai, resetting their anchors. A tug was assisting to make sure the anchors, heavy cables laid on the bottom, took hold.

“From my perspective it was an impressive display of professionalism and seamanship by the pilots and tugs and all the stakeholders here in Prince Rupert to get that ship off the mud banks. Because we had everybody there standing by, we were able to get her off before there was any damage to the ship or the environment, no leaks no holes. I’m pretty proud of the team effort,” he said.

The Pacific Paradise, assuming she suffered no damage, will be loaded with 5,500 tonnes of wheat at Prince Rupert Grain later this week and is destined for Iraq. The Wu Chang Hai is destined for Guatemala and the Lauretta for Indonesia, both carrying wheat.

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