Barge Adrift In Beaufort Sea Off Alaska’s North Slope

U.S. and Canadian authorities are trying to figure out what to do about barge that broke free and is adrift in the remote waters of the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s North Slope.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it was notified on Tuesday that a 134-foot barge had broken free from its tow in Canadian waters during severe weather on Monday, and the barge was drifting westward in the Beaufort Sea toward U.S. waters, based on computer drift models.

The self-propelled, unmanned barge has 950 gallons of diesel fuel onboard. The barge’s owner, Northern Transportation Corporation Limited, notified the Canadian coast guard, who immediately issued a Notice to Shipping to advise mariners of hazard.

U.S. Coast Guard personnel and Canadian federal agencies, including the Canadian coast guard, Transport Canada and Environment Canada, are monitoring the barges movement.

As of Thursday, a Canadian aircraft observed the barge in U.S. waters, drifting west. A U.S. Coast Guard aircraft from Air Station Kodiak is also expected to be deployed to the Arctic Slope to continue tracking the drifting barge.

The visual confirmation of the barge indicated that the fuel tanks on board were intact and did not show any evidence of discharge, according to the USCG.

Meanwhile, Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard Sector Anchorage response personnel are working with the owner to develop a response plan.

Coast Guard Sector Anchorage command center watchstanders are also broadcasting information about the drifting barge to mariners operating in the Arctic, the USCG said.

“We have a long history of working with our Canadian partners to accomplish these joint environmental protection missions,” said Cmdr. Shawn Decker, chief of response, Sector Anchorage. “As the barge’s owner and Canadian coast guard forces continue to respond, we will stand by to assist in mitigating any possible environmental impact.”

Weather on scene is reported as 40 mph winds and 12-foot seas.

The tug and barge were reportedly headed to Tuktoyaktuk in Canada’s Northwest Territories when it broke free.