Tug tracking tanker; dog still loose
By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer
The U.S. Coast Guard tonight sent a sea-going tug to take the derelict fuel tanker Insiko 1907 in tow, saying the situation now involves not only a dog abandoned at sea and the remains of a dead crewman, but the fate of thousands of sea birds, hundreds of endangered green sea turtles and an occasional Hawaiian monk seal.
The tugboat American Quest, chartered earlier by the Hawaiian and U.S. humane societies to save the dog, left Honolulu tonight under contract with the Coast Guard to keep the Indonesian flag Insiko and its cargo of fuel oil from the wildlife refuge at Johnston Atoll.
Coast Guard Capt. Gilbert Kanazawa said the tug also has orders to try to retrieve the captain's dog, Forgea, and to see if it can recover the remains of a crew member believed killed in the engine room by a fire that disabled the ship March 13.
Forgea was last seen yesterday morning by fishermen who boarded the tanker Sunday but could not capture her.
Kanazawa said the Insiko, drifting west at about 1.5 miles an hour, could reach Johnston in six days.
It will take the tugboat about three days to reach the tanker while the Coast Guard decides whether to scuttle it at sea. A C-130 aircraft will go out today to make sure of the tanker's location.
The Coast Guard apparently has decided against three other options as too dangerous or costly.
Kanazawa said letting the Insiko drift with 56,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard is not an option.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said Kanazawa had agreed not to tow the Insiko to Johnston, where the bird population could be endangered by an oil spill or invasion of rats from the ship.
And Fish and Wildlife ecotoxicologist Sara Greiner said the Coast Guard had ruled out bringing the tanker to Honolulu for a costly decontamination.
Hawaiian Humane Society President Pamela Burns said the society yesterday provided humane animal traps and "tasty treats" for the tug crew to try to catch Forgea.
Otherwise, Burns said, "arrangements will be made for Hawaiian Humane Society staff to go on board and retrieve her while the ship is still in open water."
Burns said the dog's owner, ship captain Chung Chin Po of Taiwan, wants a friend in Honolulu to adopt the dog.
While the humane societies contracted to spend almost $50,000 with American Marine for earlier searches, donated time and effort by that company and many other individuals and organizations have brought the value of the search to more than $200,000, Burns said.
More than $40,000 has been received in cash donations for the rescue effort, she said.
Reach Walter Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8054.