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Hose laid for fuel transfer at iced-in Alaska town

By Rachel D'oro

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 16 2012 3:36 p.m. MST

In this image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard the Coast Guard Ice Breaker Healy guides the Russian tanker Renda closer to the fuel transfer mooring point Saturday Jan. 14, 2012. Russian tanker carrying much-needed fuel to Nome moored less than a half mile from the town's iced-in harbor Saturday evening, starting final preparations for delivering the diesel fuel and gasoline, the Coast Guard said.

US Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Charly Hengen, Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Crews have laid a hose along a half mile (800 meter) stretch of Bering Sea ice and hope to soon begin transferring 1.3 million gallons (4.92 million liters) of fuel from a Russian fuel tanker to the iced-in western Alaska city of Nome.

The offloading could begin before sundown Monday, said Stacey Smith of Vitus Marine, the fuel supplier that arranged to have the Russian tanker Renda and its crew deliver the fuel.

Crews were working on hooking the hose to a shore-side pipeline leading to storage tanks in town, Smith said.

State officials said the transfer must start during daylight, but can continue in darkness. Nome has just five hours of daylight this time of year.

The transfer could be finished within 36 hours if everything goes smoothly, but it could take as long as five days.

The Renda is moored roughly a half-mile (800 meters) from Nome's harbor after a Coast Guard icebreaker cleared a path for it through hundreds of miles (kilometers) of a slow journey stalled by thick ice and strong ocean currents.

The city of 3,500 didn't get its last pre-winter barge fuel delivery because of a massive November storm.

Without the Renda's delivery, Nome would run out of fuel by March or April, long before the next barge delivery is possible.

The tanker began its journey from Russia in mid-December, picking up diesel fuel in South Korea before heading to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where it took on unleaded gasoline. It arrived late last week off Nome, more than 500 miles from Anchorage on Alaska's west coast.

In total, the tanker traveled an estimated 5,000 miles (8,046 kilometers), said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander of District Seventeen with the Coast Guard.

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