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Oil Spill Response Barge Breaks Loose

Jan 16, 2016

The bright orange Resolve Ibis, seen here beached after coming off its mooring in rough seas, is an oil spill response barge capable of sopping up over 20,000 gallons of fuel. The company that owns the Ibis has a five-year mooring permit from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
Credit Ethan Nichols

The 200-foot-long oil spill response barge Ibis came off its mooring Saturday afternoon in rough seas and drifted onto Front Beach, requiring a coordinated response effort. The barge has been anchored in Iliuliuk Bay for the past several months.

The barge is owned by Resolve Magone Marine Services. As of Saturday evening, a company crew had maneuvered the barge off the beach and guided it back to Magone Marine in Dutch Harbor. 

Dan Magone, Resolve Magone Marine president, said gale force winds on Saturday afternoon caused the barge the break loose from its mooring.

"The toe bridle was fouled on a buoy causing it to chafe," Magone said. "The cables failed and both bridle wires broke off of the buoys." 

According to data published by the National Weather Service and the Federal Aviation Administration, recorded wind speeds prior to the cables failing averaged 14 mph, with maximum gusts measured at 25-32 mph. 

The Ibis has been moored in Iliuliuk Bay since September 2015, standing by for incident response. Magone said the barge is primarily used to store materials when assisting vessels in distress, and there is no fuel stored onboard. While the barge sustained minor damage during Saturday's incident, it did not take on any water. 

"We're in the process of trying to devise a more bullet-proof plan before putting it back out there," Magone said. "It was certainly an embarrassing mistake and we want to make sure it doesn't happen again." 

Magone environmental spill response supervisor Jay Brost said a dive team is currently conducting a survey on the barge. The company will provide a more detailed assessment of the accidental unmooring later this week, he said. 

(Editor's note: the online version of this story was updated on January 19, 2015 as more information became available.)