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CHAPTER 3 The Aleutian Islands FRAMING THE ISSUES The Aleutians are a chain of small volcanic islands forming an island arc in the North Paciï¬c Ocean, extending about 1,200 miles west- ward from the Alaska Peninsula toward the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. In addition to their biological, cultural, and economic signiï¬cance, these islands have long been geopolitically impor- tant to the United States, most notably during World War II, but more recently with the advent of the global shipping industry. Today the Aleutians are located along the shortest transportation route for vessels traveling between northwestern North America and Asia (see Figure 3-1). Along that route, Unimak Pass in the eastern Aleutians is heavily used by vessels traveling between ports such as Vancouver and Seattle and those in East Asia, such as Shanghai and Yokohama. Although navigational hazards exist near the islands and severe weather and sea conditions are common, the passâs main channel is relatively wide, deep, and unobstructed. More than 4,500 vessels now traverse Unimak Pass annuallyâa number that has steadily risen in recent years and is anticipated to continue to grow with increases in vessel trafï¬c in Asia and North America, including the Arctic as well as the Aleutian Islands. The risk posed to people and the environment by shipping in the Aleutians is greatly inï¬uenced by the regionâs unique setting, 57
58 â¢ Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands 130Â°E 140Â°E 150Â°E 160Â°E 170Â°E 180Â° 170Â°W 160Â°W 150Â°W 140Â°W 130Â°W 120Â°W 70Â°N 70Â°N 60Â°N Aleutians Se att 50Â°N le Po rtla nd Sa nF ran 40Â°N cis40Â°N LA co o /Lo n ky ng sa To Be Pu ach 30Â°N 30Â°N Great Circle Route 20Â°N 20Â°N 130Â°E 140Â°E 150Â°E 160Â°E 170Â°E 180Â° 170Â°W 160Â°W 150Â°W 140Â°W 130Â°W 120Â°W FIGURE 3-1 Map depicting vessel transits along the northern and southern North Paciï¬c Great Circle Route. (The light blue line indicates an exclusive economic zone.) (Source: Nuka Research and Planning Group 2006.) harsh environment, and difï¬cult operating conditions. Such fac- tors as geography, climate, regulatory regime, population and its cultural base, ecology, and industrial activities combine to deï¬ne this special operating system. Assessing the risk posed by ship- ping operations requires a full understanding of these factors and conditions as they are at present and as they may change over time. This chapter reviews the data and information available to the committee concerning these topics and provides an initial over- view of how these issues can be framed within a risk assessment of shipping operations in the Aleutians. Discussed in turn are the regionâs environmental and ecological assets; its economic assets; its cul- tural and social values; its geology, oceanography, and climate; and its supporting maritime infrastructure.
The Aleutian Islands: Framing the Issues â¢ 59 LOCAL ASSETS AND THEIR VULNERABILITY1 Environmental and Ecological Assets The Aleutian Islands archipelago comprises more than 200 islands covering an area of about 1.1 million hectares. Formed by vol- canic action, the islands today are still characterized by regular, frequent volcanic and seismic activity. Many of the chainâs 57 volca- noes (13 of which exceed 1,500 meters in height) are active. Most of the islands are mountainous, with numerous lakes, ponds, and streams. Plant life is diverse and characterized by species from both North America and Eurasia. The Aleutian Islands have long been recognized for their impor- tance as a haven for biological diversity. As early as 1913, the Aleutians were designated by President William Taft as the Aleutian Islands Reservation. The reserve was created primarily for the con- servation of seabirds and sea otters, the latter having been nearly extirpated as a result of the fur trade throughout the North Paciï¬c. Pioneering biologists such as Olaus Murie and Bob âSea Otterâ Jones conducted early seminal studies that still guide science and conservation in the region today. In 1980 the wildlife reservation of the Aleutians was combined with several others in Alaska, establish- ing the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The islandsâ important role in the preservation of natural and cultural heritage has been recognized through other designations: â¢ More than 60 percent of the refuge is considered wilderness according to the Wilderness Act of 1964. âWildernessâ designation in this context can be afforded to areas of ecological, geological, historical, scientiï¬c, or other value. â¢ In 1976, the World Conservation Union, now known as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, designated the Aleutian Islands an International Biosphere Reserve, a status conferred under the aegis of the United Nations. â¢ Several sites within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge have been designated as natural or historical under the National Park Serviceâs National Natural and Historical Landmark Programs. 1 The committee gratefully acknowledges the information on Aleutian history and culture provided by Poppy Benson of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and on inva- sive species provided by Dave Aplin of the World Wildlife Fund.
60 â¢ Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands â¢ The National Audubon Society has identiï¬ed more than 20 sites in the Aleutians and neighboring islands as Important Bird Areas, an international designation used in more than 150 countries to indicate that an area harbors bird species of special concern, species with restricted home ranges, and species that are vulnerable because they exist in high concentrations and therefore could suffer signiï¬cant negative impact from a single event. â¢ The World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy of Alaska consider several regions within the Aleutians to be high conser- vation priorities because of their global importance in harboring marine mammals, seabirds, and unique island ecosystems. These areas include the Golden Triangle, the marine and island eco- systems that extend from Unalaska and the Bogoslof Islands to the Pribilofs and Izembek Lagoon. â¢ One of the unique aspects of the Alaska Maritime National Wild- life Refuge is the inclusion of international research and conser- vation in its mission statement. This is particularly important given the biogeographical proximity of the Aleutian Islands to Russian waters and their inclusion of Russiaâs Commander Islands Biosphere Reserve, an archipelago that makes up the westernmost extent of the Aleutian chain. â¢ In recognizing the importance of the Aleutian Islands, the North Paciï¬c Fishery Management Council has developed a pilot Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the region. The goals are to integrate data, identify ecosystem indicators that can be used to evaluate the health of the Aleutians over time, and provide a proactive tool for setting management goals and understanding cumulative effects (North Paciï¬c Fishery Management Council 2007). The islandsâ many outstanding ecological features include more than 30 species of nesting seabirds, numbering approximately 40 millionâa ï¬gure representing 80 percent of all seabirds found in North America. Buldir Island alone is considered the most diverse seabird breeding area in the northern hemisphere. The Aleutian chain also provides important wintering areas for such species as the emperor goose and whiskered auklet, which winter almost exclusively in the Aleutians. Hundreds of thousands of marine mammals breed on the islands, including endangered Steller sea lions and endangered northern sea otters, and together, Bogoslof and the Pribilof Islands host the worldâs
The Aleutian Islands: Framing the Issues â¢ 61 largest rookeries for northern fur seals. Other marine mammals that traverse the rich waters surrounding the Aleutians include various cetacean species, such as the sperm, humpback, Bairdâs beaked, ï¬n, killer, and Stejnegersâ beaked whales. For many marine mammals, one of the islandsâ passes, Unimak Pass, provides a critical migra- tory corridor between the North Paciï¬c Ocean and the Bering Sea. Indeed, Unimak Pass is a veritable marine mammal superhighway, used by humpback whales, sea lions, fur seals, and many other wildlife species moving between the two water bodies. Few areas in the world match the Aleutians in marine productiv- ity. Thanks to its proximity to the Bering Sea âgreen beltââa region of high primary productivity along the Bering Sea shelf breakâand the bathymetry of the Bering Sea, the Aleutian chain reaps the beneï¬ts of tidal mixing of cold nutrient-rich waters and high levels of phytoplankton and zooplankton, building blocks of the marine food web. The Aleutiansâ high species richness and productivity are evident in numerous habitat types that are both representative of and unique to the Bering Sea. Among them are rich eelgrass beds and kelp forests. Just west of the Aleutians, on the northern side of the Alaska Peninsula, Izembek Lagoon is home to one of the worldâs largest expanses of eelgrass, a marine grass that provides substrate and shel- ter for invertebrates and ï¬sh and is an important source of nutrition for waterfowl. In the western Aleutians, scientists have recently invested special effort in documenting the presence of cold-water corals. In so-called âcoral gardensâ are more than 100 species known to form a rich undersea habitat for numerous ï¬sh and invertebrates (Stone 2006). In fact, current science indicates that the Aleutians may be home to the highest species diversity of cold-water corals, with at least 25 species of hydrocorals and gorgonians being endemic to the region (occurring nowhere else in the world) (Heifetz et al. 2005). The Aleutiansâ coral gardens provide shelter for rockï¬sh and shrimp and breeding habitat for species such as golden king crab. Other species assemblages, such as sponges, anemones, snails, and sea stars, often accompany coral gardens. New species are continually being discovered in the Aleutians. In summer 2007, during an expedition surveying 1,000 miles in the western region, from Attu to Tigalda Island in the Aleutian chain, two species of anemone thought to be new and one new kelp speciesânamed Golden V Kelp for its
62 â¢ Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands v-shaped lobeâwere discovered (Dutch Harbor Fisherman 2007). In June 2007, because of concern about potential damage to the western Aleutian corals by bottom-trawling ï¬shing gear, the North Paciï¬c Fishery Management Council closed 180,000 square miles in the western Aleutians to this form of ï¬shing. The Aleutians are also home to important ecological processes that sustain the richness of the waters surrounding the islands, as well as Alaskaâs cold and productive marine waters. The islandsâ passes, for example, channel the ï¬ow of nutrient-rich water to the Bering Sea and provide important forage for seabirds and mammals (Stabeno et al. 2005). Island passes, Unimak Pass in particular, also serve as marine mammal corridors for whales and pinnipeds traveling between the North Paciï¬c Ocean and the Bering Sea each year. Economic Assets The ecological state of the Aleutians is tied in many ways to the health of the regionâs economy. The Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands are known for harboring some of the richest ï¬sh stocks in the world, including walleye pollock, Paciï¬c Ocean perch, Paciï¬c cod, Paciï¬c herring, halibut, sableï¬sh, pelagic and demersal rockï¬sh, Atka mack- erel, and salmon. The harvesting of these ï¬sh, particularly pollock, forms the basis of a vibrant economy that generates approximately $2 billion per year. Given the regionâs location on the North Paciï¬c Great Circle Route and as the center of one of the most produc- tive ï¬sheries in the world, much of its economy is based on ï¬shing, processing, ï¬eet services, and shipping (ADEC 2007). At the center of this industry is Dutch Harbor, a port on the island of Unalaska. In 2007, for the 18th year in a row, Dutch Harbor was the leading port in the United States in terms of volume of ï¬sh landed (brought into the docks), while it ranked second in value, at $162 million, behind New Bedford, Massachusetts (Welch 2007). The communi- ties of Atka and Adak are also developing their harvesting and pro- cessing capacities, respectively. In 2005 the Aleutian Islands region contributed 216 million pounds of ï¬sh, representing an estimated ex-vessel value (i.e., the value before processing) of $60 million (North Paciï¬c Fishery Management Council 2007). In 2006 there were 7,000 active ï¬shing permit holders in Alaska, at least 2,876 of whom had Alaska wage and salary employment in addition to their ï¬sh harvesting jobs. Gross ï¬sheries earnings for
The Aleutian Islands: Framing the Issues â¢ 63 this group exceeded $285 million, while wage and salary earnings were $71.5 million (Wink et al. 2007). Although it is difï¬cult to determine how many of those people are located in the Aleutian Islands, 80.5 percent of the private-sector workforce2 (27.4 percent in ï¬sh harvesting and 53.1 percent in seafood processing) in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands region was employed in the seafood industry in 2005. Cultural and Societal Values The early ancestors of the Unangans, or Aleuts, came to the Aleutian Islands more than 11,000 years ago. They built villages along the seacoast and developed intricate societies supported by the abundant marine mammals, ï¬sh, seabirds, marine invertebrates, and seaweed. Their population numbers reached between 15,000 and 25,000. Evidence of their ancient villages still exists on nearly every island. Today, Aleut villages are found on Atka, Adak, Umnak, Akatan, and Unimak Islands in the Aleutians and on St. Paul and St. George in the Pribilof Islands, as well as on Bering Island in Russiaâs Com- mander Islands. The Russian âvoyages of discoveryâ were launched with the ï¬rst expedition of Vitus Bering in 1741, as the Russian empire sought to explore and exploit resources in the easternmost reaches of the Eurasian continent. With the discovery of plentiful fur-bearing mam- mals, such as sea otters and fur seals, a wave of fur traders soon swept the area, bringing disease and subjugation to the Aleuts and colo- nizing some of the islands as part of Russian America. The traders wantonly overharvested sea otters, and they introduced foxes to many of the islands, which would have a negative impact on the islandsâ bird life for the ensuing two centuries. Human societies were also destroyed: by the 1780s the Unangan/Aleut population had declined to about 2,000. In 1867 the Aleutians were included as part of Russiaâs sale of Alaska to the United States. A Russian presence remained in Aleut communities, particularly through the Russian Orthodox Church, to which many local people had been converted during the period of Russian dominance. Today Aleut/Unangan communities throughout 2 Workforce refers to the number of workers employed in an industry for any amount of time during the year.
64 â¢ Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands the chain participate in commercial ï¬sheries and other industries while maintaining customary and traditional subsistence practices. Communities throughout the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands harvest a variety of marine resources from the rich waters of the Bering Sea, including Steller sea lions and northern fur seals, sea ducks, seabird eggs, and other products. In addition to traditional activi- ties, Aleutian and Pribilof residents participate in the Bering Sea ï¬shery, a centerpiece of the regionâs economy. The community- based halibut ï¬shery, in which residents directly participate through an Individual Fishing Quota system, is a signiï¬cant income gen- erator. Pribilof and Aleutian Island communities also participate in the North Paciï¬c ï¬shery through the Community Development Quota program. Shareholder proï¬ts are administered by the Cen- tral Bering Sea Fishermenâs Association on St. Paul Island and the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Community Development Association, which represents St. George Island and ï¬ve communities in the Aleutians. Another inï¬uential factor in the islandsâ history and culture is the legacy of World War II. During the war, the Japanese swept into the Aleutians, bombing Dutch Harbor and seizing the islands of Kiska and Attu. Allied forces fought the long and bloody Aleutian Campaign to recapture the islands. The military remained after the war, later testing three underground nuclear bombs on Amchitka Island. Active bases continued to exist at Shemya and Adak through the Cold War into the 1990s. Relicts of the Cold War and World War II, including guns, buildings, and debris, remain on many islands. Isolation has prevented the degradation of such sites at Kiska and Attu, which are now considered some of the best-preserved World War II sites in the world. GEOLOGY, OCEANOGRAPHY, AND CLIMATE Geology and Oceanography The Alaskan archipelago is a chain of volcanic islands along a seismic subduction zone and thus experiences frequent volcanic activity and earthquakes. The volcanic activity has been known to change water depths substantially and has been responsible for undersea mountain ranges and a deep ocean trench.
The Aleutian Islands: Framing the Issues â¢ 65 The productivity discussed in the previous section can be attrib- uted in large part to the nutrient-rich currents that are driven northwards along the west coast of Canada and southeast Alaska, join the Alaskan stream as it follows the Continental Shelf break westward past Kodiak Island and along the southern side of the Aleutians, and ï¬nally ï¬ow through the oceanic passes into the Bering Sea. The inï¬ow through the Aleutians creates an eastward ï¬ow along the north side of the islands, known as the Aleutian North Slope Current, and is the source for the Bering Slope Current. The water depth through Near Strait is about 2,000 meters, and the inï¬ow of the Alaskan Stream through this passage provides most of the mass needed for upper-ocean circulation in the west- ern Bering Sea (NOAA 2000). Figure 3-2 depicts the current ï¬ow in the Aleutian Islands region. The tides along the southwestern end of the Alaskan Peninsula are semidiurnal, while those from Unimak Island westward through- out the entire Aleutian chain are a combination of diurnal and semi- diurnal. The maximum tidal range at Cold Bay is around 8 feet, while the entire Aleutian Island chain has a range of about 4 feet. Water usually ï¬ows with the channel (i.e., southeast to northwest and vice versa). A current of 3 to 5 knots is common in Unimak Pass, FIGURE 3-2 General circulation through and around the Aleutian Islands. (Source: Presentation to the committee by J. Whitney, October 29, 2007.)
66 â¢ Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands but currents greater than 7 knots do occur. Unimak Pass is 10 miles across, with a 4-mile safety fairway. The sea bottom is rocky outside of fairways (e.g., Unimak Pass and Dutch Harbor). There is a limit- ing draft of 42 feet from Iliuliuk Bay into Dutch Harbor caused by a bar near a sea buoy (USCG 2006). On the north side of Unalaska Islandâin the vicinity of the M/V Selendang Ayu incidentâas in other remote areas in the Aleutians, âlittle is known of how currents, open ocean swells, wind waves, and bathymetry/geography interact.â This lack of information will hinder future efforts to respond to accidents until more is learned (Scott et al. 2008, 5). Climate The Aleutian Islands are characterized by moderate and fairly uni- form temperatures and heavy rainfall. For example, the average annual temperature in Unalaska is about 38Â°Fâ30Â°F in January and about 52Â°F in August. The highest and lowest temperatures recorded on the islands are 78Â°F and 5Â°F, respectively. The average annual rainfall is about 80 inches and Unalaska has about 250 rainy days per year. Wind speed is typi- cally high in the Aleutians. A [typical] storm track along the Aleutian Island chain and all of the coastal area of the Gulf of Alaska exposes these parts of the state to a large majority of the storms crossing the North Paciï¬c, resulting in a variety of wind problems. Direct exposure results in the frequent occurrence of winds in excess of 50 mph during all but the summer months. In the western end of the Aleutian Islands, winds have reached an estimated 139 mph (estimated because the wind recorder pen could only record up to 128 mph). Wind veloc- ities approaching 100 mph are not common but do occur, usually associated with mountainous terrain and narrow passes. For years, strong winds have taken their toll of both merchant and ï¬shing vessels. (www.wrcc.dri.edu/narratives/ALASKA.htm) Poor weather in the Aleutian region (e.g., rain and sleet) com- monly reduces visibility to half a mile 15 to 20 percent of the time, and foggy conditions persist from late spring through early fall. Fog usually clings to islands on the Bering Sea side more than to those on the Paciï¬c side. Each year from late summer through early spring sees semi- permanent low pressure in the Aleutians, causing difï¬cult sea con-
The Aleutian Islands: Framing the Issues â¢ 67 ditions and resulting in the storm season. âLow pressure systems that develop over the western Bering Sea (off the coast of Eastern Siberia) often track east along the Aleutian Islands before impacting mainland Alaska. Storms, especially in the winter, are characterized by weather conditions that are extremely variable over very short time periods and distancesâ (Scott et al. 2008, 2). Weather conditions can change drastically âfrom sunny to snowy and from calm to hurricane-force winds, all within a few hoursâ (Scott et al. 2008, 2) and are known to change radically within a quarter mile. The impact of severe weather on the safety of ship operations was emphasized in a number of presentations to the committee. SUPPORTING MARITIME INFRASTRUCTURE Most of the infrastructure in place to monitor climate, vessel traf- ï¬c, and rescue and salvage operations is centralized in Dutch Har- bor, Unalaska, though infrastructure associated with ï¬shing has increased on Adak Island in recent years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has installed several offshore weather/wind sensory buoys, but the Physical Oceano- graphic Real-Time System is not installed in this area. NOAA invests many resources in trying to understand water circulation in the Aleutian region and has conducted numerous drifter studies to obtain data on current trajectories. (See Figure 3-3 for examples of some drifter trajectories in the region.) These studies use drifter buoysâbuoys weighted down so that their movements are driven by the water currents and minimally inï¬uenced by the wind. Until relatively recent years, only two moored buoys were in place in the Aleutian Islands because of many factors, including freezing spray and frequent strong current speeds through the passes that made the buoys difï¬cult to maintain. There are tide and current tables, including Coast Pilot; tide height sensors are installed at Sennett Point and Unimak Pass; and tugboats currently report sea conditions by using standardized forms. Unalaska Island has a handful of permanent observational platforms; however, all instrumentation is located in the vicinity of Dutch Harbor, some 50 miles away from the site of the M/V Selendang Ayu incidentâon âthe opposite side of the island from the incident in a completely different meteorological and oceanographic regimeâ
68 â¢ Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands 54.5ËN 53.5ËN 52.5ËN 51.5ËN 176ËW 172ËW 168ËW 164ËW 1986â1992 54.5ËN 54.5ËN 53.5ËN 53.5ËN 52.5ËN 52.5ËN 51.5ËN 51.5ËN 176ËW 172ËW 168ËW 164ËW 176ËW 172ËW 168ËW 164ËW 1993â2000 2001â2002 FIGURE 3-3 Drifter trajectories during three different time periods over 17 years, using 53 drifters. Sixty percent of the buoys went through either Unimak Pass or Samalga Pass; 26 percent did not go through any passes. (Source: Presentation to the committee by J. Whitney, October 29, 2007.) (Scott et al. 2008, 2). Weather monitoring is also provided by RADARSAT-1, a polar-orbiting satellite with high-resolution images (about 0.1 km) that offer âgood indicators of surface wind speed and direction. Because RADARSAT utilizes surface roughness to esti- mate wind information, RADARSAT could also provide high reso- lution insight into the extent of any oil spill because oil tends to minimize surface roughness relative to ocean surfaces that are not oil coveredâ (Scott et al. 2008, 5). In recent years, the loss of power on commercial ships, leading to drift groundings, has been identiï¬ed as a frequent cause of major oil spills; therefore, a number of U.S. states have established prepo- sitioned rescue tugs. In terms of capacity for rescue and oil spill response in the Aleutian region, however, the physical infrastruc- ture needed to respond to large vessels in distress along the North Paciï¬c Great Circle Routeâincluding Unimak Passâis generally minimal and is insufï¬cient under severe weather conditions. Dutch Harbor is the only commercial port in the Aleutians with facilities
The Aleutian Islands: Framing the Issues â¢ 69 suitable for large vessels. However, only small harbor tugs are per- manently stationed there. In 2004, during the M/V Selendang Ayu accident (near Dutch Harbor), none of the rescue vessels that were able to reach the scene [a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutter and two commercial towing vessels] were capable of rendering needed assistance because they were too small and had limited towing power. Indeed, USCG has no tugs capable of assisting large vessels in distress. This is a long-standing problem in the region, and various stakeholders have strongly advocated upgrad- ing the rescue tug capability in the Aleutians for as long as the need has been recognized. USCG has a presence in Dutch Harbor and provides valuable safety oversight and communications capability for the region, espe- cially with respect to ï¬shing and commercial vessels calling at Dutch Harbor and the substantial maritime activity based in this port. USCG does not, however, operate any vessel trafï¬c monitoring or manage- ment system for commercial ships transiting nearby Unimak Pass or for foreign vessels in general using the Great Circle Route through the Aleutian region. The Alaska Marine Pilotsâlicensed state pilots whose primary duty is to maintain the safe navigation of a vessel at all times while in transit or maneuvering in compulsory pilotage watersâalso have a base in Dutch Harbor. There they have the capability to track vessels through a link to automatic identiï¬cation system stations. This capability helps them communicate with and follow vessels with which they work during port calls to Dutch Harbor. They do not have the authority to manage trafï¬c in Unimak Pass, but they have developed some proposals to that effect and could be consulted about how such a capability might operate. The general rule for determining the boundaries of compulsory pilotage in the Aleutian Islands is consistent with that for other regions of Alaska. Pilotage is compulsory at all entrances from seaward to Alaska bays, sounds, rivers, and straits where the passage is within 3 nautical miles of the shore. Vessels requiring a licensed state pilot include those that are of foreign origin, those over 300 gross tons that are registered in the United States, and those over 65 feet long that are propelled by machinery. There are exemptions for towing vessels; Canadian naval vessels; U.S. and Canadian ï¬shing vessels; pleasure craft of U.S. registry; and vessels engaged in coastwise trade between Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada.
70 â¢ Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands Other commercial assets for emergency response are also stationed in Dutch Harbor. A local salvage ï¬rm, Magone Marine Service, Inc., has operated in the harbor since 1978 and performed many valuable response operations for casualties involving ï¬shing vessels, tug- barges, and cargo vessels; however, it, too, lacks the assets needed to assist large commercial ships in distress (see Appendix G). Recog- nizing the need for additional response assets, local authorities and industries in Dutch Harbor developed an Emergency Towing System (ETS) in 2007 that is now located in Unalaska (see Box 3-1). The BOX 3-1 Dutch Harbor ETS The ETS is described as follows: Following the near grounding of the Salica Frigo on March 9 , the Mayor of Unalaska convened a Disabled Vessel Workgroup to discuss issues and proactive solutions, which prompted the ETS workgroup. The goal of the workgroup is to develop an emergency towing capability for disabled ves- sels in the Aleutians subarea utilizing locally available tug- boats and an emergency towing system. Emergency towing equipment and trained personnel stationed in Unalaska will decrease response time and may preclude a disabled vessel from grounding. The ETS consists of a towline capable of towing a dis- tressed vessel, a messenger line to assist in deploying the towline, a line-launcher, a buoy, and chafï¬ng gear. The ETS may be deployed to a disabled ship from the stern of a tug- boat or airdropped to the deck of the ship via helicopter. Two ETS will be purchased to cover most vessels found in the Aleutian Islands. The City of Unalaska has purchased a system suitable for vessels up to 50,000 DWT and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is pur- chasing a system capable of towing vessels greater than 50,000 DWT. Source: Aleutians Emergency Towing System for Aleutians, Alaska. www.dec.state. ak.us/spar/perp/aiets/home.htm.
The Aleutian Islands: Framing the Issues â¢ 71 ETS is deployable from either a rescue vessel or a disabled vessel and has been tested in local exercises. It is a much-needed interim mea- sure, but local stakeholders do not consider it a substitute for a large, capable standby rescue tug (committee meetings in Dutch Harbor, November 1â2, 2007, with mayor and city council of Unalaska, Alaska Marine Pilots, Magone Marine). Furthermore, while inno- vative and commendable, the system is intended to be deployed primarily in Dutch Harbor and therefore is geographically limited in its application. REFERENCES Abbreviations ADEC Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration USCG United States Coast Guard ADEC. 2007. Operating and Capital Budget, Fiscal Year 2008. www.unalaska-ak.us. Dutch Harbor Fisherman. 2007. Divers Find New Species in Aleutian Waters. Vol. 15, No. 49, Nov. 8, p. 16. www.thedutchharborï¬sherman.com. Heifetz, J., B. Wing, R. Stone, P. Malecha, and D. Courtney. 2005. Corals of the Aleutian Islands. Fisheries Oceanography, Vol. 14, Suppl. 1, pp. 131â138. NOAA. 2000. The Aleutian Islands and Lower Alaska Peninsula: Oceanographic Conditions and NOAAâs Oil Spill Response History During 1981â1999. HAZMAT Report 2000-3. Hazardous Materials Response Division, National Ocean Service, Anchorage, Alaska. North Paciï¬c Fishery Management Council. 2007. Overview of the Aleutian Islands Fishery Ecosystem Plan. Anchorage, Alaska. doc.nprb.org/web/AI_ FEP/AI%20FEP%20draft%20-%20May%2017,%202007.pdf. Nuka Research and Planning Group, LLC. 2006. An Assessment of the Role of Human Factors in Oil Spills from Vessels. Report to the Prince William Sound Regional Citizensâ Advisory Council. Seldovia, Alaska. Scott, C., S. Albanese, and J. Whitney. 2008. Providing Total NOAA Scientiï¬c Support to the USCG for Remote Oil Spill Locations: The M/V Selendang Ayu Incident in Alaska. International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings, in press. Stabeno, P., G. Hunt, and S. Macklin. 2005. Introduction to Processes Controlling Variability in Productivity and Ecosystem Structure of the Aleutian Archipelago. Fisheries Oceanography, Vol. 14, Suppl. 1, pp. 1â2. Stone, R. P. 2006. Coral Habitat in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska: Depth Distribution, Fine-Scale Species Associations, and Fisheries Interactions. Coral Reefs, Vol. 25, pp. 229â238.
72 â¢ Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands USCG. 2006. Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) Workshop Report, Aleutian Islands. July 24â25. www.dec.state.ak.us/SPAR/PERP/ai_risk/ aleutian_islands_ï¬nalrpt.pdf. Welch, L. 2007. Dutch Harbor/Unalaska Nationâs #1 Port for Seafood Deliveries for 18th Year. Stories in the News, July 31. www.sitnews.us/LaineWelch/071307_ ï¬sh_factor.html. Wink, A., J. Hadland, and B. Laurent. 2007. Alaskaâs Fishermen: They Donât Just Fish for a Living. Alaska Economic Trends, Nov., pp. 4â11. www.labor.state. ak.us/research/trends/nov07occ.pdf.