Fishing Vessel Leaking Ammonia Moved to Wide Bay

Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

After two days of unsuccessful efforts to stop an ammonia leak from the factory-processor Excellence, the ship was safely towed to Wide Bay Saturday night.

The Excellence’s captain first reported the leak to local authorities on Friday afternoon. All 129 crewmembers were evacuated from the vessel, along with the crew of a neighboring boat. Two local welders who were trying to repair the ammonia line were medevaced to Anchorage. One has been released from the hospital, the other is reported to be under observation, but in stable condition.

Local authorities maintained a safety perimeter around the Kloosterboer dock throughout the weekend and periodically shut down parts of Ballyhoo Road. Firefighters sprayed water at the ship to smother the ammonia fumes.

On Saturday afternoon, a team of contract Hazmat workers installed additional ventilation in the Excellence, making it safe for the ship to be moved to Wide Bay. Manned by a skeleton crew consisting of only the captain and two crewmembers, the seven mile tow took almost four hours.

A Hazmat team will measure ammonia emissions at Wide Bay twice a day, but they can’t enter the Excellence to secure the damaged line until the fumes subside. The ship’s captain estimates that 3,000-5,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia have spilled inside the ship. The vessel is built to hold up to 20,500 pounds of the chemical.

Coast Guard Lieutenant James Fothergill says the cause of the spill is under investigation.

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