Trident Seafoods resumed operations at its Akutan processing facility on Feb. 19, in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak that had put work there on hold since Jan. 21.
Trident has taken additional steps to combat future COVID-19 risks there, including redesign of shift and break schedules to limit close contact and capacity limits to allow distancing in all areas outside of workstations.
115 employees who were quarantined in Sand Point and Anchorage have returned to Akutan to participate in crab and Pacific cod processing at a crucial point in the season and to prepare for Pollock processing to resume this week.
Trident CEO Joe Bundrant praised the determination of all involved that made restarting operations at Akutan possible after four weeks. “We will bring a renewed sense of diligence and focus to our primary goal, which is the health and safety of our employees, fishermen and communities delivering quality seafood from source to plate,” he said.
Resumption of plant operations were a positive note for Trident officials, who are also dealing with a fire aboard the company’s 230-foot Aleutian Falcon processing vessel at Tacoma, which resulted in total loss of the vessel.
The fire began on the night of Feb. 16 and was brought under control by the Tacoma Fire Department, which managed to contain the massive blaze to the vessel itself. Firefighters used water resources from the pier and three other boats to fight the blaze.
No injuries were reported.
The Coast Guard said the fire broke out shortly before midnight at Pier 25 at the Port of Tacoma.
The Hylebos and Blair Waterways were closed for several hours and absorbent boom was placed near the vessel to mitigate pollution.
Fire officials said at one point their biggest concern was that the Aleutian Falcon reportedly had approximately 48,000 gallons of diesel fuel onboard, but in the aftermath of the blaze no pollution issues were reported. The online publication Maritime Executive also reported that the 40-year-old vessel was carrying nearly 10,000 pounds of ammonia, a common refrigerant gas for processor vessels which is a toxic and potentially flammable gas, so fireboat crews paid extra attention to hull cooling in the area where it was stored on board.
A unified command was established by the Tacoma Fire Department, the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington Department of Ecology. The fire department later reported that the hull of the vessel was sound and that the department was working with Trident Seafoods on a de-watering plan to keep the vessel from sinking.
When operated, the vessel with a crew of 120 supplemented Trident’s shore based and larger processing vessel operations throughout Alaska, company officials said.