– by LT Connie Braesch, USCG
The Coast Guard has a long history of braving harsh Alaskan elements to rescue mariners in distress, protect the U.S. interests in the international waters, conduct Arctic research as well as bring much needed supplies to remote Alaska villages.
The Service’s latest Arctic mission to help bring fuel to the ice-encrusted harbor of Nome is just one of the ways we continue to honor those traditions.
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy, our nation’s only operating polar ice breaker, is on-scene breaking ice and leading the way for the Russian-flagged tanker vessel Renda into Nome. The ice stretches from the harbor about 300 miles. Healy can break a path to within a half mile of the entrance to Nome but is unable to get any closer due to the depth of the water. From this point, there are a number of options being explored to get the fuel the remainder of the way including using a fuel hose from the barge to shore.
“This has been and continues to be a highly orchestrated effort between all stakeholders to ensure mission success,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander 17th Coast Guard District. “Our daily discussions will continue with our federal, state, local, tribal partners and the marine industry to ensure the highest standards of safety and compliance are in place to mitigate risks to the people of Nome, the crews of the vessels and the environment.”
The city had arranged to have a barge deliver fuel in the fall, but the historic November storm delayed the delivery. By the time the weather cleared, Nome was iced-in.