Tesoro Alaska took a major step to improve oil spill prevention in Cook Inlet recently when it contracted with Crowley Maritime Corp. for the construction of a new tractor tug, the first permanent vessel of its kind.
According to Cook Inlet RCAC, Captain Jack Jensen of Tesoro Alaska said the new assist tug, the M/V Vigilant, arrived in Homer on March 25. While in Homer, a few minor adjustments were made to the vessel before it was permanently stationed in Nikiski.
Cook Inlet RCAC has long advocated for a full-time tug to serve in Nikiski as an added precaution to wintertime berthing and unberthing operations of crude oil tankers. Currently, however, U.S. Coast Guard and State of Alaska regulations do not require the presence of an assist tug at the Nikiski dock.
“Tesoro should be applauded for their commitment to navigational safety by bringing this tug into Cook Inlet,” said Cook Inlet RCAC executive director Michael Munger. “It’s a rare but welcomed occurrence for a corporation to go above and beyond regulatory compliance.”
The M/V Protector, the tug being replaced by the 6,700 horsepower Vigilant, was brought into service in January 2007 when heavy ice conditions in Cook Inlet threatened tanker moorings. The Vigilant will be operated for Tesoro by Crowley.
A small delay in early November occurred when the ship yard responsible for fabricating the new tug Vigilant, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders Inc. of Langley, Washington, shut its doors and filed for bankruptcy. At that time, Crowley indicated that the Vigilant was 90 percent complete and the christening, originally slated for early January 2008, was going to be delayed by two months and possibly longer. The construction later resumed in early December.
The Vigilant departed Washington on March 17 for its nine-day maiden voyage to Alaska.