In early December, the Coast Guard was in the middle of its investigation into the July sinking of the 229-foot Bering Sea trawler Alaska Juris.

 

Testimony in the Coast Guard hearings blames the loss of the Alaska Juris on poor management and maintenance. USCG photo.A crew of 46 abandoned the ship when it began taking on water more than 150 miles northwest of Adak in the western Aleutian Islands. Nearby merchant ships rescued the crew, who escaped the trawler in three life rafts.

Search crews could not find the ship after three days of searching by water and by air. 

The Coast Guard launched a formal investigation, which included a series of hearings in Seattle, where the owners of the boat, Fishing Company of Alaska, are based.

A network of bilge alarms that should have sounded when the boat began taking water did not activate, according to crew interviews.

“The siren can wake the dead. Anywhere on the vessel you can hear the alarm,” said Ben Eche, an electrician who did shoreside work on that alert system, in testimony. “I can’t explain why they didn’t hear anything.”

Eche and other crew members speculated the system might have been disabled for some reason. An Alaska-based welder testified about repairs to the Juris, saying some thin-walled pipe from Japan was used in recent repairs.

Herb Roeser, owner of Seattle-based Trans-Marine Propulsion Systems, alleged that a Japanese entrepreneur was in control of the company and the vessel had been weakened by improper modifications over time.

Hearings were scheduled to continue into mid-December. 

 

Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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