Adrift off Alaska: a metaphor for the American ship of state?

Posted by
Craig Chalquist

The following rather synchronistic news item reads more like a message than a random event, especially given the Senate's lily-livered decision this week to allow oil drilling in Alaska. Note the name of the ship. The statement, "It's not an issue of power but of steering" sums things up very well.

Ship Adrift With 204 Aboard Near Alaska

Mar 22, 12:19 PM (ET)


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A disabled fish processing ship with 204 people on board was adrift in stormy weather in the Gulf of Alaska, and two Coast Guard cutters and a tug were headed to the scene Tuesday.

The 325-foot Independence's steering system failed Monday in 20-foot seas with blowing snow and wind as high as 60 mph. The weather had calmed overnight, but wind still was blowing at about 23 mph and waves were running 8 to 10 feet, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Roger Wetherell said Tuesday morning.

No injuries had been reported.

The Coast Guard sent cutters from Kodiak Island, and Seattle-based Trident Seafoods Corp., owner of the Independence, sent a chartered tug and the Independence's sister ship. They were expected to reach the disabled ship during the day Tuesday, Wetherell said.

The plan was to get a line on the ship and tow it to a safe port, most likely Seward, about 185 miles away, he said.

The ship's port rudder failed Monday morning as the ship was heading back to Seattle following the end of its cod season, said Trident attorney Joe Plesha. Later, a hydraulic piston driving the vessel's other two rudders failed.

"The ship still has its own power," he said. "It's not an issue of power but of steering."

The Independence, built in 1938, has a history of mechanical and other problems, according to Coast Guard records.

From 1994 through 2001, the Coast Guard investigated 10 incidents involving the vessel in Alaska, Washington state and Oregon. Seven involved mechanical problems and three involved discharge of oil, records show.

Plesha said he had not seen those Coast Guard reports and could not comment.


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