Tug tows stricken container ship to Port of Tacoma

The Hunter, the state-funded emergency response tug stationed at Neah Bay, is towing a containership, the Horizon Tacoma, to Tacoma today after responding to a call for assistance late last night, according to the Washington State Dept. of Ecology.

The Hunter, another escort tug Garth Foss, and the disabled ship Horizon Tacoma are expected to pass west of Seattle by mid-afternoon.

The 712-foot container vessel requested the Hunter’s assistance Tuesday at about 10:30 p.m. after it reported to the U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service that the ship experienced engine problems and elected to shut down its main engine a few miles north of Neah Bay. The containership had full use of its thrusters and directional navigation, and called for tug assistance as a precautionary measure.

The Hunter rapidly got underway and arrived at the ship in less than 30 minutes and connected a tow line to the Horizon Tacoma.

Horizon Lines, which owns the container ship, promptly notified the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Seattle of the incident and requested permission to proceed under tow directly to its Port of Tacoma destination, and contacted the Dept. of Ecology for assistance.

Suzanne Englebert, Coast Guard Captain of the Port, Puget Sound, directed the Horizon Tacoma to engage a second assist tug. The tug Garth Foss met the vessels at Port Angeles this morning and is escorting the Hunter and its tow, the Horizon Tacoma.

The Horizon Tacoma was inbound from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and about three miles offshore just off of Neah Bay when the crew noticed smoke coming from one of two turbochargers on the ship’s propulsion engine. To prevent engine damage, the ship’s engineer recommended that the captain shut down the engine.

A repair crew boarded the Horizon Tacoma at Port Angeles this morning at 7 a.m. to evaluate the damage and assist the ship’s crew in making repairs.

The Horizon Tacoma is expected to arrive in Tacoma sometime this evening, depending on currents and weather conditions.

The tug Hunter is stationed at Neah Bay under a contract between its owner, Crowley Maritime Corp., and the Dept. of Ecology. Because the tow to Tacoma will engage the Hunter for many hours, the Dept. of Ecology and Crowley have arranged for another Crowley tug, the Valor, to stand by at Neah Bay in place of the Hunter.