ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Crews of a Russian tanker readied on Saturday a segmented hose to transfer from ashore critical fuel to an iced-in Alaskan town.
Sitnasuak Native Corp. board chairman Jason Evans said the 370-foot tanker Renda was aiming Saturday to moor at about 500 yards from the village of Nome, whose harbor had too much ice for the vessel to reach.
Instead, the crew will move 1.3 million gallons of fuel through a hose set up over sea ice.
Personnel will walk the entire length of the hose every 30 minutes to check it for leaks. Each segment will have its own spill containment area, and extra absorbent boom will be on hand in case of a spill.
Evans said he hopes the crew will begin unloading the fuel by Sunday.
"It's kind of like a football game, we're on the five yard line and we just want to work into the goal line," Evans, whose hometown is Nome, said.
The Renda finally reached Nome's vicinity after a slow crawl through hundreds of miles of sea ice. It was aided by the Seattle-based U.S Coast Guard Cutter Healy.
There has been a lot of anxious waiting since the ship left Russia in mid-December. It picked up diesel fuel in South Korea before traveling to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where it took on unleaded gasoline. Late Thursday, the vessels stopped offshore and began planning the transfer.
A fall storm prevented Nome from getting a fuel delivery by barge in November. Without the tanker delivery, supplies of diesel fuel, gasoline and home heating fuel Nome are expected to run out in March and April, well before a barge delivery again in late May or June.
Evans, however, cautioned that delivering the fuel is only half the mission.
"The ships need to transition back through 300 miles of ice," he said. "I say we're not done until the ships are safely back at their home ports (in Seattle and Russia)."
Coast Guard webcam, http://bit.ly/wEsemi