And you thought you had a tough car hauler job.

Crew prepares to abandon listing ship near Aleutian Islands
By Rachel D'Oro
The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE — The crew of an Asian ship listing nearly on its side in the North Pacific prepared to abandon the vessel Monday after Coast Guard officials determined it was too dangerous to stay on board.
The Coast Guard and Alaska Air National Guard were sending helicopters and other rescue craft to pick up the 22 crew members of the Cougar Ace, 230 miles from Adak Island in the Aleutians. The crew members all had donned survival suits.
"For their safety, it's best for them to come off the ship," said Lt. Mara Booth-Miller as officials waited early afternoon for the three helicopters to arrive in the remote site. She said it's "very probable" that part of the deck was under water.
Earlier Monday, a Coast Guard plane dropped three life rafts, but roiling waters shoved the rafts underneath the dipping port side of the 654-foot ship. Racing against an increasingly tilting ship, rescuers tossed an additional raft along the higher starboard side, but it was a 150-foot drop to the water and beyond their reach.
The Cougar Ace had been carrying nearly 5,000 cars from Japan to Canada when it began taking on water Sunday night.
"It's sitting on its side, basically," Petty Officer Stephen Harrison said.
A merchant marine ship crew that had been in the area reached the vessel Monday morning. The crew of that ship tried, but failed, to rig a line to the Cougar Ace to keep it from tilting further.
Near the vessel, Coast Guard officers could see a 2-mile-long oil sheen, though officials said it was difficult to say how much of the ship's 430 metric tons of fuel oil or 112 metric tons of diesel fuel had spilled. The ocean was choppy, with rain squalls and 8- to 10-foot seas reported.
Communications between the crew and Coast Guard became increasingly difficult Monday when the batteries in the crew's hand-held radio dimmed, Booth-Miller said. Crew members had to shout information to the merchant ship, which then relayed messages back and forth to the Coast Guard.
The Singapore-flagged Cougar Ace — owned by Tokyo-based Mitsui O.S.K. Lines — was carrying 4,813 vehicles from Japan to Vancouver, British Columbia, said Greg Beuerman, a spokesman for the ship owner. There were no reports of any cars going overboard. Beuerman said typically vehicles are securely fastened.

"Obviously, the primary concern for all involved is the safety of the crew on board," he said. "The vessel is of critical importance as well, but the first priority is the health and the safety of the crew."
One crew member had a broken leg, but no other injuries had been reported, according to Harrison.
Beuerman said the ship was equipped with life boats and rafts, but it would have been too risky to use them in this situation.
It wasn't immediately clear what had caused the ship to list. Its crew sent out an SOS late Sunday night but didn't know where the water was coming in, McKenzie said.
A Coast Guard cutter was on its way to the area, 230 miles south of the island of Adak in the western Aleutians. The cutter, based in Honolulu, had been on routine patrol 700 miles southeast of the troubled ship when it was diverted to help the crew of the listing ship shortly before midnight. It was expected to reach the Cougar Ace on Tuesday.
Beside the Coast Guard helicopter, two Pave Hawk helicopters, two refueling planes and a C-130 plane were en route from Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage. Guard crews were carrying rafts and survival kits, including food, water, flares and radios, said Guard spokeswoman Kalei Brooks.
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