The Coast Guard encourages harbor users to be aware of the dangers of snow loads on their vessels this winter in Alaskan ports.
Every year Alaska gets large amounts of snowfall and rain which increases snow load danger, especially on boats moored in small boat harbors. On average, more than 10 boats per winter sink in Alaskan small boat harbors due to inattention to snow load or lack of proper maintenance.
Coast Guard personnel conduct winter harbor patrols to identify boats at risk for reduced stability and sinking. It is the vessel owner’s responsibility to ensure that their vessels are prepared for and maintained during the winter months.
“Many Alaskan residents take vacations during the winter months,” said Lt. Cmdr. Walner Alvarez, prevention department head at Marine Safety Unit Valdez. “It’s always good idea to notify the harbor master if you will be away for an extended period of time.”
Here are a few steps mariners should take to ensure the safety of their vessel during periods of heavy snowfall:
- Remove snow and ice accumulation, including clearing scuppers
- Check shaft packing for excess leakage
- Perform routine checks for signs of loose or deteriorating planks on wooden hulled vessels
- Conduct a routine inspection of automatic bilge pumps
- Visually inspect all thru-hull fittings for damage or loose connections
- Remove unnecessary fuel from the boat if you are going to be away for an extended period of time
- Verify and update vessel owner contact information with the Valdez Small Boat Harbor
- Arrange reliable snow removal for both the boat and the finger pier which it occupies all winter