Factory Trawler Hit With Ammonia Leak

A Seattle–based factory trawler that experienced an ammonia leak was undergoing repairs near Alaska’s Dutch Harbor this week after three people were treated for inhalation of fumes of the toxic substance.

The incident occurred aboard the 353-foot Excellence, where two welders and a vessel engine room chief were affected by the ammonia, according to the Coast Guard and the online newspaper The Dutch Harbor Telegraph.

The vessel is owned by Premier Pacific Seafoods of Seattle.

The Coast Guard said the vessel was towed to Wide Bay, some 7 miles from the city of Unalaska, for repairs. Once the repairs are completed, their work will be inspected by the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment at Dutch Harbor.

Officials said an unknown amount of ammonia was released, with a full potential of 20,500 pounds onboard the Excellence. The fire department initially established an exclusion zone around the vessel and sprayed down the vessel with water in an attempt to reduce the fumes emanating from the Excellence.

Veteran newsman James Mason, owner/editor of the Dutch Harbor Telegraph, said a crewmember who he spoke with told him a pipe in the engine room broke just where it entered a valve. Vessel personnel were able to shut that part of the system down, then headed back to Dutch Harbor to unload the catch and get a certified ammonia welder to fix the pipe. Some 135 people on board were safely evacuated.

The vessel tied up at Kloosterboer, an international cold storage firm, and it was there that the three workers suffered effects from inhaling ammonia while trying to repair the vessel.