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Stricken chemical tanker towed into San Francisco after deadly fire

 Coast Guard escorts the disabled Pine Galaxy as tug vessels tow the ship toward the Port of San Francisco.
Coast Guard escorts the disabled Pine Galaxy as tug vessels tow the ship toward the Port of San Francisco.
U.S. Coast Guard

A chemical tanker that was left adrift at sea after a deadly fire in its engine room has arrived in San Francisco after a towing journey of hundreds of miles.

The Pine Galaxy, towed by commercial tug boats and escorted by a Coast Guard cutter and a patrol boat, was nudged into the Port of San Francisco on Wednesday.

The stricken 485-foot tanker was expected to arrive in San Francisco earlier this week, but Coast Guard officials say the progress of the ship and the commercial tugboat towing it was delayed by bad weather.

The Pine Galaxy was about 700 miles off the coast of Oregon, en route from Los Angeles to South Korea with 22 crew members on board, when a fire broke out in a machine room in its main engine room on August 13. The fire killed one crewman and left the ship without power or propulsion.

The tanker, registered in the Bahamas, was carrying neutral oil, tetramer, propylene tetramer and vegetable oil. Coast Guard officials say there was no damage to the vessel’s cargo tanks, fuel tanks or hull, and that none of the oil-related products leaked into the ocean.

What was described as “installed fire fighting systems” doused the blaze, but the fire damaged the ship's generators. After the fire, attempts to get the ship's engines running again failed.

When the Coast Guard first received word of the fire and the ship being disabled, it activated its “Automated Mutual Assistance Rescue System” to direct ships in the area to check on the tanker.

The Coast Guard also sent an HC-130 Hercules airplane from Sacramento to drop communication equipment to the crew, and dispatched the Stratton-- a 418-foot cutter homeported in Alameda -- to the scene.

As the Pine Galaxy was being towed, the Coast Guard and several federal and state agencies formed what was termed a “safety zone" around the ship.

“Our top priority is ensuring a coordinated effort to get the ship safely into port where repairs can be made,” Capt. Greg Stump, commander, Coast Guard Sector San Francisco, said in a statement as the ship approached San Francisco.

While the ship is in San Francisco, it will be inspected and repaired.

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