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ICE WORLD
Russian ship leaves after ice-bound Alaska fuel run
by Staff Writers
Nome, Alaska (AFP) Jan 21, 2012


A Russian tanker left the Alaskan coast Saturday bound for home after delivering fuel to a remote Alaskan port, in an unprecedented winter operation helped by a US Coast Guard ice-breaker.

The Vladivostok-based Renda followed its escort the USCG Healy into the mist, leaving Nome after supplying 1.3 million gallons of fuel to top off the ice-locked town's winter fuel supply.

The Russian ship had arrived a week earlier after battling across 300 miles (480 kilometers) of Arctic ice to reach Nome, a town of 3,500 people, with the help of the Healy.

The remote town did not get its usual pre-winter oil delivery due to a storm, necessitating the unprecedented operation to bring fuel in during winter.

A special waiver had to be granted to allow the Renda to head to the rescue, as under a 1920 law only US-owned and operated vessels are allowed to make such deliveries.

The two ships finally arrived near Nome late last week, although it took several days to move the tanker into position and start pumping fuel through some 460 yards (meters) of arctic-proof hoses to fuel storage tanks onshore.

Once out of the ice, the ships will separate. The Healy will go to Seattle for maintenance.

Mark Smith, head of Vitus Marine, the company that chartered the Renda for the fuel delivery, said ice and wind conditions could be favorable for the ship's return to Vladivostock, its home port in Russia's Far East.

Forecasts suggested 100-150 miles of open water were opening up, he said before the tanker and its US escort left.

"They are optimistic that if they can get away from shore fast ice they can make some rapid progress," he said.

"It's all about ice conditions, but once the Renda is free of the ice pack, they are probably 10 days away from homeport in Vladivostok."

Russian ship completes fuel delivery to Alaska town
Nome, Alaska (AFP) Jan 19, 2012 - A Russian tanker completed the delivery Thursday of 1.3 million gallons of fuel to a remote Alaskan port, after an unprecedented operation helped by a US ice-breaker, officials said.

The Vladivostok-based "Renda" began pumping fuel ashore to the town of Nome late Monday, after battling across 300 miles (480 kilometers) of Arctic ice with the help of the US Coast Guard ship "Healy."

The operation to offload the gasoline and diesel fuel continued day and night, and finished at around 5:30 am Thursday (1430 GMT), said Adam Tyndale of the US Coast Guard.

Denise Michels, mayor of the isolated town of 3,500 people, hailed the successful delivery, saying: "We're definitely happy it was a safe transfer, that there were no incidents."

But she added: "I won't feel relieved until I know 'Healy' and the 'Renda' are out of the ice and on their way home. That's when I'll feel that big relief."

The remote town did not get its usual pre-winter oil delivery due to a storm, necessitating the unprecedented operation to bring fuel in during winter.

A special waiver had to be granted to allow the Renda to head to the rescue, as under a 1920 law only US-owned and operated vessels are allowed to make such deliveries.

The two ships finally arrived near Nome late last week, although it took several days to move the tanker into position and start pumping fuel through some 460 yards (meters) of arctic-proof hoses to fuel storage tanks onshore.

Locals reacted with relief Thursday. Michael Malony -- materials manager for Norton Sound Health Corp, which runs a local hospital for Alaska Natives including Eskimos and Indians -- said the delivery was vital.

"I am definitely relieved they were able to get the fuel to Nome with the tanker, because Sitnasuak holds the contract to fuel Norton Sound Health Corp," he said.

"Without that delivery we had no idea if they would be able to fulfill their obligation for supplying our fuel," he added.

Tyndale said the Coast Guard now has to help the Russian-flagged "Renda" back out through hundreds of miles of frozen ocean.

"The next step for the Coast Guard will be to monitor the breakdown of the transfer equipment. We need to make sure all the fuel is out of the hoses and up at the storage facility," he said.

"At the outside, the 'Healy' could be leaving tomorrow morning. I'm not sure there is time for them to be done with preparations today. We're playing it by ear," he said.

The Healy will have to break ice in front of the Renda for 370 miles until the pair of ships reaches open water.

According to experts, the Healy will need to break through ice 20 inches to 30 inches thick until the last 100 miles, when the ice will thin out to 12 inches to 18 inches thick.

Once out of the ice, the ships will separate. The Healy will go to Seattle for maintenance. The Renda will head home to Vladivostok.

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