Russian ship to take fuel to ice-locked Nome, Alaska
That's the word in ice-bound Nome, Alaska, which has been scrambling for a way to get winter fuel after a devastating Bering Sea storm waylaid the barge that was to have delivered the town's final 1.6 million gallons.
Sea ice moved in and locked up the port before the barge could make a second run, and the town of 3,600 was looking at the possibility of having to fly in fuel -- an option that would likely raise gas prices from their current $5.40 a gallon to as much as $9.
Now, though, the Nome-based Sitnasuak Native Corp. has announced that it has signed a contract with Vitus Marine, also based in Alaska, to have a Russian-owned ice-class tanker bust through the ice and deliver home-heating fuel, gasoline and diesel fuel.
"It really came down to that one vessel that could possibly do the job. It just so happens it was available at the moment we needed it," Sitnasuak board chairman Jason Evans told the Associated Press.
The vessel, which is capable of moving through ice four feet thick, regularly makes fuel deliveries across the Russian Far East. Later this week, it will depart for South Korea, where it will pick up a load of fuel and deliver it by late December to Nome, the AP said.
It will be expensive, Evans admitted, but will probably mean gas prices will only rise about half as much as they would have otherwise.
The shipment will be groundbreaking as well as ice-breaking: If successful, it will mark the first time fuel has been delivered by sea in the winter to a coastal Alaskan town.
-- Kim Murphy in Seattle
Photo: Gasoline is already expensive in Nome, Alaska. Credit: Peggy Fagerstrom / Associated Press