Connections Magazine

Winter 2017

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its first trip because it winters above the Arctic Circle, where the ice is now just receding. The Avik and her barge make a beeline for the village of White Mountain on the Fish River in Norton Sound to ensure they catch the first round of high spring tides and runoff in order to make their delivery to this isolated village. Without the components combination fuel and deck cargo barges, a fleet charged each year with delivering important fuel supplies on time to customers whose only other option is to fly the fuel in, which would be cost prohibitive. With seven tugs, 12 barges, and 48 crewmembers to get the job done, the stakes are high—more than 100 coastal and river communities and hundreds of customers within this geographical range all need fuel to keep their families warm during the winter and unleaded gasoline to help them subsist. The kicker: Almost none of these locations have charts or buoys to support navigation, nor do they have soundings to reference to ensure there's deep enough water to operate. The Race to Resupply Crowley's specialized petroleum distribution lighter barges spread out along the coast in a northerly direction as the ice quickly recedes from the Norton Sound, an inlet of the Bering Sea in the western part of the state. Simultaneously, the company's chartered tug-and-barge line haul supply vessels arrive in the Bristol Bay area, loaded with fuel. The third (and last) river set is in Kotzebue, preparing for its first trip of 223 miles up the Kobuk River to resupply the villages there. The tug Aku is just preparing for of tide and runoff, it would be unlikely they could deliver there at all. Also taking advantage of the runoff, tug Toolik River heads toward the headwaters of the Kuskokwim River to deliver to McGrath, while the tug Rampart transits 178 river miles from Nenana on the Tanana River toward the operating area of the Yukon River to supply the local communities. Bristol Bay is coming alive as the commercial salmon fishing fleet amasses for the burgeoning sockeye salmon season. The tug Siku will join the fishermen in Bristol Bay for the next 45 days to support the fishing fleet with fuel and supplies. Crowley's first major supply of fuel has arrived via tanker in the Togiak region, and it's time to start resupplying the tank farm in Bethel, the major hub in the area, on the Kuskokwim River. The U.S. Coast Guard placed buoys in the Kuskokwim delta and lower river, marking the channel for the marine industry to safely navigate the Kuskokwim River to Bethel. Without these buoys, many operators with larger 31 Story continued on page 32 Connections Winter 2017 The tug Nachik pushes the fuel and freight barge 165-1 against the freight ramp in the Port of Nome, Alaska. Below: The crew of the tug Siku ties up to the tanker Nordisle in Roberts Bay in Eastern Canada.

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