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JUNEAU, Alaska â€” The Coast Guard Cutter Healy has completed a seven-month science mission and their deployment is being extended an additional month to assist the citizens of Nome with their looming energy crisis.
“Ensuring the safe and expeditious transport of fuel to the people of Nome is consistent with the heritage of the Coast Guard in Alaska,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander District Seventeen. “I recently met with Healy’s crew and they understand the importance of this mission and are committed to assisting. I could not be more proud of them.”
District Seventeen Coast Guard personnel continue to work closely with federal, state, local, and tribal partners and the maritime industry to determine the best course of action that minimizes any risks to people and the environment.
“The city of Nome appreciates the unity of effort and support from the Coast Guard, State of Alaska, and Alaska Congressional delegation. This collaborative effort will allow for the much needed delivery of fuel to sustain our community through the winter,” said Mayor Denise Michels of Nome.
The Coast Guard will undertake a port state control exam of the double-hulled ice-classed Russian tanker Renda prior to the vessel entering U.S. waters to ensure it meets all applicable U.S. laws and regulations and will be able to safely deliver the fuel under the extreme and unforgiving weather conditions of Alaska.
The Healy’s participation is contingent upon the following four items: the Renda passes the Coast Guard port state control exam, there are no inordinate delays, the fuel transfer plans meet federal and state requirements and on scene weather conditions permit safe passage. If all these conditions are met the Healy will assist the Renda’s transit by breaking ice along the nearly 300 mile route from the ice edge to Nome.
Sea ice has developed around Nome which has prevented delivery of fuel by barge. Foreseeing a fuel shortage, Sitnasuak Native Corporation of Nome has signed a contract with Vitus Marine LLC to deliver 1.5 million gallons of petroleum products to Nome via the Renda in early January. If successful, this will mark the first time that petroleum products have been delivered by sea to a Western Alaskan community in winter. The transportation cost will be substantially lower than the cost of the standard winter delivery method using an air tanker.
“The Coast Guard has provided tremendous support as we have worked together to do something that has never been done before,” said Jason Evans, chairman of SNC. “The community of Nome will always remember what the Healy and the Coast Guard have offered to do for them.”
This year, the Healy spent seven months underway in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean in support of science missions. The crew of the Healy worked with researchers from NASA to collect and study water and ice samples to learn more about the refractive properties of sunlight in the Arctic. They participated in their fourth year of collaboration with the Canadian coast guard icebreaker Louis S. St. Laurent to map the floor of the Arctic Ocean. They also carried out National Science Foundation sponsored research projects including deploying and recovering several types of hydrographic moorings as well as completing a biology-based mission, studying the behavior of copepods in the winter months.
Healy, commissioned in 2000, is the Coast Guard’s only operating icebreaker. The cutter is 420-feet long and has extensive scientific capabilities. Homeported in Seattle, the cutter has a permanent crew of 80. The primary mission of the crew is scientific support but are capable of other operations such as search and rescue, ship escorts, environmental protection and the enforcement of laws and treaties in the Polar Regions.