Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/707823
56 Proceedings Summer 2016 www.uscg.mil/proceedings Also taking advantage of the runoff, tug Toolik River heads toward the headwaters of the Kuskokwim River to deliver to McGrath, while the tug Rampart transits 178 river miles from Nenana on the Tanana River toward the operating area of the Yukon River to supply the local communities there. Bristol Bay is coming alive as the commercial salmon fishing fleet amasses for the burgeoning sockeye salmon season. The tug Siku will join the fishermen in Bristol Bay for the next 45 days to support the fishing fleet with fuel and sup- plies. Crowley's first major supply of fuel has arrived via tanker in the Togiak region, and it's time to start resupplying the tank farm in Bethel, the major hub in the area, on the Kuskokwim River. The U.S. Coast Guard has just recently finished plac- ing buoys in the Kuskokwim delta and lower river, marking the channel for the marine industry to safely navigate the Kuskokwim River to Bethel. Without these buoys mark- ing the controlling channel into the river, many operators The Race to Resupply Crowley's specialized petroleum distribution lighter barges spread out along the coast in a northerly direction as the ice quickly recedes from the Norton Sound, an inlet of the Ber- ing Sea in the western part of the state. Simultaneously, the company's chartered tug-and-barge petroleum line haul supply arrives in the Bristol Bay area, loaded with fuel. The third (and last) river set is in Kotzebue, preparing for its first trip of 223 miles up the Kobuk River to resupply the villages there. The tug Aku is just preparing for its first trip because it winters above the Arctic Circle, where the ice is now just receding. The Avik and her barge make a beeline for the village of White Mountain, on the Fish River in Norton Sound, to ensure they catch the first round of high spring tides and runoff in order to make their delivery to this isolated vil- lage. Without the components of tide and runoff, it would be unlikely to deliver there at all. The Ikkat-class tugs Nachik and Sesok at the Bethel Tank Farm in Bethel, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Crowley by Michael Stanton. The Crew The work schedule is another major challenge for Crowley and its mariners. When merchant mariners sign on, the company usually has some type of work schedule or time required to be out to sea versus time at home. Many tug companies offer anywhere from 30 days on, 30 days off, to 60 days on/60 days off, with a total overall time of six months of work, and six months off of work. It doesn't work this way for Crowley's western Alaska fleet, whose mariners work six months straight and then have six months off. The crewmembers do get a two- to three-week break sometime during the season to enjoy some summer activities with friends and family. Working in this region is a big commitment for mariners and their families. It's an inherently challenging job involving a long time away from home and family, and a long grind for these crews. However, the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea are among our last frontiers, so every day has the potential to bring once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as observing migrating pods of whales or spotting beach-roaming polar bears. "For me, the work schedule is fantastic. I work very hard for half the year, then I go home and play even harder for the other half." — Kyle Erickson, mate in training "The experience our deck officers have acquired through years of training and years spent learning the waters and nuances of western Alaska are the key to safely and successfully completing the job — just having a route into a village would spell trouble for anybody who thinks they could just input the route into the GPS and make it successfully." — Franky Merrigan, Tug Avik captain