Coast Guard promotes safety among gold dredge operators

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jason Boyle, a prevention inspector from Sector Juneau, inspects gold dredging vessel Flakey Business in Nome, Alaska, June 12, 2014. Boyle and two other inspectors traveled to Nome to provide free dockside safety inspections at the start of the 2014 gold dredging season. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jason Boyle, a prevention inspector from Sector Juneau, inspects gold dredging vessel Flakey Business in Nome, Alaska, June 12, 2014. Boyle and two other inspectors traveled to Nome to provide free dockside safety inspections at the start of the 2014 gold dredging season. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Alaska is well known for its wealth of resources. Fish, lumber and oil are only a few of the valuable commodities that have driven people to brave the challenging environment of the Last Frontier, but there is another hard sought treasure to be won from the land: gold.

The biggest gold rush in Alaska occurred in Nome between 1898 and 1909, and many still search for gold in the town’s harbors with small vessels dredging off the shores.

Nome is a fair distance from Anchorage or Juneau, but the Coast Guard 17th District’s area of responsibility encompasses all of Alaska. Many of the Coast Guard’s missions bring personnel like Lt. Cmdr. Jason Boyle, a senior marine inspector from the 17th District in Juneau, and Lt. Cmdr. Dan Buchsbaum and Lt. Brierley Ostrander, senior marine inspectors from Sector Anchorage, to Nome.

“I think the City of Nome and the Coast Guard have a good relationship,” said Boyle. “We continue to work together as the Coast Guard broadens our outreach efforts through Arctic Shield.”

“As maritime traffic increases in the Bering Strait, it’s important for the Coast Guard to continue to have a presence where the marine traffic is,” Boyle continued. “Nome is one of those hopping off points where traffic is growing. It’s important for us to be here, to have a presence and to work with the gold dredge fleet to increase safety and overall domain awareness.”

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Buchsbaum and Lt. Cmdr. Jason Boyle speak to gold dredgers during a town hall meeting in Nome, Alaska, June 11, 2014. Buchsbaum is the chief of marine inspection division from Sector Anchorage, and Boyle is chief of licensing, inspection, investigations and facilities from Coast Guard 17th District in Juneau. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Buchsbaum and Lt. Cmdr. Jason Boyle speak to gold dredgers during a town hall meeting in Nome, Alaska, June 11, 2014. Buchsbaum is the chief of marine inspection division from Sector Anchorage, and Boyle is chief of licensing, inspection, investigations and facilities from Coast Guard 17th District in Juneau. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Upon arriving to Nome, Boyle, Buchsbaum and Ostrander attended a town hall meeting June 11. After the meeting, many vessels owners approached the prevention personnel to sign up for free voluntary dockside vessel inspections.

“I was sort of surprised at how many boaters signed up,” said Buchsbaum. “Previously when we’ve been here, we haven’t had quite as good a response. This time, we had a pretty robust response.”

As many as 12 mariners signed up for inspections at the end of the meeting and, the team of inspectors completed 19 vessel inspections during their three-day visit to Nome. The team provided mariners with decals indicating their vessels had passed inspection. Vessels with current decals may reduce the chances of being boarded by the Coast Guard during dredging operations. If boarded, the Coast Guard may issue citations to mariners found in violation of state or Federal regulations.

When performing safety examinations on gold dredgers, the inspectors look for basic safety items such as fire extinguishers, life jackets and visual distress signals. Gold dredger vessel owners are expected to comply with Coast Guard and state regulations, though inspections are not required.

Dan Green shows Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Buchsbaum a life jacket aboard his gold dredge during a voluntary dockside vessel inspection in Nome, Alaska, June 13, 2014. Vessel inspections are conducted to reduce the risk of injuries to persons, damage to property and protection of marine environment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Dan Green shows Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Buchsbaum a life jacket aboard his gold dredge during a voluntary dockside vessel inspection in Nome, Alaska, June 13, 2014. Vessel inspections are conducted to reduce the risk of injuries to persons, damage to property and protection of marine environment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

“The vessels have to meet basic boating safety requirements to earn a decal,” said Ostrander. “I check to make sure those items are on board, but during the exam, I also take the time to discuss recommended equipment and practices that can raise the vessel to a higher level of safety.”

Whether fishing vessel, recreational vessel or gold dredger, the Coast Guard is committed to ensuring mariners and their vessels are prepared for any outcome.

“We in the Coast Guard always want to promote safety among any type of operations that are on the water,” said Buchsbaum. “It’s very important to us to make sure all of the mariners that are out there perform operations safely and have the means to come home.”

Click here to view a multimedia presentation of the inspectors’ visit to Nome.

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