FV Alaska Ranger

filed under | ships | accident


FV Alaska Ranger was a fishing Factory ship owned and operated by the Fishing Company of Alaska of Seattle, Washington. The ship was constructed in 1973 for use as an oil field service vessel. The ship sank 23 March 2008, after reporting progressive flooding only hours earlier. Sinking and crew rescueThe unexpected and unexplained flooding of the ship meant that the crew had to abandon the vessel at night, into the frigid waters of the Bering Sea. Radio pleas for help were forwarded to a US Coast Guard vessel, which moved toward the area while dispatching helicopters. By the end of the effort, 42 of the 47-person crew had been located and brought safely to shore, most suffering severe hypothermia. The rescue was carried out by a USCG HH-60 Jayhawk which was stationed on Saint Paul Island, AK and a HH-65 Dolphin which was attached to the USCGC Munro, which rescued 20 people, and 22 were rescued by Alaska Ranger’s sister ship FV Alaska Warrior. The ship sank 180 miles west of Dutch Harbor. Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine awarded its 2009 Aviation Week Heroism Award to the U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Team involved in this rescue operation, stating: "The two helicopter crews displayed exceptional risk mitigation and airmanship in fighting time, distance and weather – including snow squalls, a -24°F wind chill, 15 ft seas and 30 kt winds – to rescue survivors. The USCG deems the operation the largest cold-water rescue in its history." According to the United States NTSB, the triggering event in the sinking was the loss of one of the two rudders. This allowed water to pour into the rudder room by way of the 9-inch diameter rudder trunk. The marine architect designed the opening of the rudder trunks to be above the waterline so that water would not enter the rudder room should a rudder fall out. However, United Marine Shipbuilding changed the ship from an oil well service boat to a fishing boat in 1988. The changes raised the waterline 2.5 feet. This put the rudder trunk openings below the water line. The ceiling of the rudder room was only 20 inches above the trunk openings. Flooding of the rudder room should not have sunk the ship since there was a watertight bulkhead. The NTSB can only speculate that the door was left open, the seals or latching dogs failed, or that the holes cut in the bulkhead for refrigeration lines needed for fish processing were not watertight. If the conversion installed a watertight bulkhead between sections of the fish processing area the boat would not have sunk. Whatever the reason, the water flooded the engine room. At some point the water level became high enough to short out the main electrical distribution panel. This caused the loss of electrical power throughout the boat. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]

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