December 4, 2010 / 1:30 AM / in 8 years

Freighter adrift in North Pacific with 20 crew

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - U.S. Coast Guard cutters and helicopters rushed on Friday to assist a disabled freighter adrift in the Bering Sea with 20 crew members aboard and carrying a cargo of oilseeds and fuel.

The 738-foot, Liberian-flagged vessel Golden Seas, owned by Paragon Shipping Inc of Greece, alerted the Coast Guard before dawn of a main engine failure in rough seas about 70 miles north of Adak in the Aleutian Islands chain, Coast Guard officials said.

Two Coast Guard cutters and two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter rescue teams were dispatched to aid the crippled vessel, which was drifting to the southeast at roughly 2 miles per hour.

No accidents, spills or injuries were reported, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios. But weather was bad with gale-force winds and 28-foot seas, he said.

The Coast Guard initially described the ship’s cargo as consisting of canola oil and diesel fuel but later reported the vessel to be carrying canola seed, diesel fuel and fuel oil. Canola seed is a traded agricultural commodity that is crushed to produce vegetable oil and meal for animal feed.

No confirmed figures were available on the volume freighter’s cargo. The ship was loaded in Vancouver, British Columbia, before embarking on a voyage for the Middle East, said Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for the vessel’s management company, All Seas Marine.

The freighter apparently was traveling a busy shipping corridor known as the Great Circle Route, which extends from the West Coast of North America through the Aleutian Islands to Alaska and on to Asia.

The route is known to be treacherous due to stormy weather, icy seas and high winds.

“They had some type of engine problem. They have not lost all power,” Wilson said. “They have limited power, but it’s just not enough out there in these weather conditions.”

Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Greg McCune

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