Tug crew coaxes
canine into cage

Rescuers use food to lure the dog
away from the burned-out tanker

Options to handle ship debated

By Treena Shapiro

In the end, Forgea's rescuers did not need traps, nets, snares or tranquilizer darts.

They just brought food aboard, the dog approached and the 25-day saga of an abandoned dog drifting on a derelict tanker came to an end.

"It certainly delights all of us that have been watching this story so carefully," said Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society. "And it's absolutely the outcome that thousands and thousands of people across the world were looking for."

The Coast Guard announced yesterday that within two hours of reaching the burned-out Insiko 1907, two crew members of the American Marine Corp. tugboat contracted to tow the tanker had put Forgea in a cage.

"Once they went on board, the dog was there and the dog came right up to them," said Coast Guard Capt. Gilbert Kanazawa, commanding officer of the Honolulu Port. "They had some food on them. They didn't have to go through much effort to retrieve the dog up there."

Forgea's plight captured the world's attention after it was discovered that the Insiko crew had been rescued by the Norwegian Star, a passing cruise liner, on April 2, but that the dog had been left behind with the body of a crew member killed in the March 13 fire that left the boat without power.

"The dog was still in pretty good shape, and it's drinking and eating," Kanazawa said. "We're very proud that this came to a happy ending."

The society had been ready to charter a flight to Johnston Island and take a boat to the Insiko if the tugboat crew was unable to rescue Forgea.

Dave Pauli, an animal handler from the Humane Society of the United States who had flown in from Montana to stand by for the rescue, said he was not disappointed to have missed the action. "It's the kind of capture that you like: quick, fast, humane and we didn't have to go out there," he said.

The tugboat crew has not yet determined whether they can recover the body, which is reported to be below deck in the half-flooded operating room, according to American Marine vice president Rusty Nall.

"From what I understand, it very difficult to gain access to the engine room. A lot of the corridors are collapsed and gangways and stairways are burnt out," he said.

Contacted in Taiwan by an interpreter yesterday afternoon, Forgea's owner, Chung Chin Po, said he was surprised and happy at the rescue.

"It is quite amazing that Forgea survived by herself for so many days," he said. "I was surprised. The rains must have helped her."

Chung stressed that he would have never left Forgea behind by choice, but also that the captain of the Norwegian Star was not aware that there the dog was left behind. "When the rescuing boat came, I was the last to leave Insiko 1907. Since my English is not good, and it was late at night and the weather was bad, I was probably not quite understood," he said.

"Please understand that under such circumstances, being rescued by a foreign cruise after the disaster on my tanker, I didn't insist on getting my dog," he said. "But I do love my dog and I told people about (her being) left behind when interviewed."

Chung said he was deeply moved by the efforts to save his dog. "A lot of people are concerned about Forgea and spend a lot of manpower and money on rescuing her. I'd like to thank the local government, societies and media. I am really very happy."

He said the people who donated to Forgea's rescue were kind-hearted and he was not surprised they would give so much money to save a dog -- about $48,000 in cash and much more in donated time and services.

"They are very nice people with love," Chung said. "Money can always be earned, but Forgea is a living creature. She has a life."

He said he was busy with a new tanker and will not be able to come to Hawaii right away.

Chung's friend Michael Kuo, who lives on Oahu, will take care of Forgea, he said.

"Forgea is a very friendly dog. She has been living with us on the tanker for a long time," Chung said. "But she is kind of afraid of strangers and she may bark when strangers try to get near her. She is a very loyal dog."

Before Forgea moves to the Kuo household, however, she will have to be quarantined.

Kanazawa said that plans were to bring the dog back to Honolulu before the tugboat finishes its mission to move -- and perhaps sink -- the Insiko, which has been drifting toward Johnston Island and posing an environmental threat. The tanker holds about than 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel and other oils. The details still have to be worked out, he said.

After Forgea is brought to Honolulu, she will be checked into the state animal quarantine station and given a thorough examination by a veterinarian, Burns said. Then she will be quarantined for 120 days at the Kauai Humane Society, which is smaller and has fewer animals than the Hawaiian Humane Society.

Terri Guo of the China Daily contributed to this report.



Options to handle ship debated

By Diana Leone

With the Insiko 1907's celebrity passenger, Forgea the dog, finally rescued, the Coast Guard can now concentrate exclusively on what to do with the 60,000 gallons of petroleum products aboard the crippled tanker.

Because of risks to wildlife, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends that the Coast Guard remove the fuel from the Insiko before sinking it.

It is a relief that the Insiko was captured by a Coast Guard-hired tug yesterday and will not drift into Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, said Don Palawski, refuge manager for Fish & Wildlife's Pacific Remote Islands National Refuge complex. But there are still concerns, he said.

The Coast Guard has authority on what to do with the Insiko, in consultation with the U.S. State Department, since the vessel is foreign-owned, said Capt. Gilbert Kanazawa, commanding officer of the Honolulu port.

The whole purpose of sending a hired tugboat to sea to retrieve the Insiko was "to prevent an ecological disaster that could have happened," Kanazawa said.

As of yesterday evening, Kanazawa said the Coast Guard was considering the risks and benefits of these options:

>> Towing the Insiko to Johnston Atoll to offload fuel.
>> Offloading fuel on the high seas.
>> Scuttling the boat with fuel aboard.
>> Towing it back to Honolulu to offload fuel.

The Indonesian tanker is carrying a cargo of about 50,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel, plus 9,000 gallons of fuel to power the boat and smaller amounts of heavy lubricating oils, said Charlie Herbert, regional spill coordinator for Fish & Wildlife.

It has been adrift since being disabled by a fire in the engine room on March 13. The abandoned vessel drifted Tuesday within 200 nautical miles of Johnston Island, triggering the Coast Guard's jurisdiction.

If the tanker is scuttled in deep water with the fuel aboard, it is likely that fuel would escape into the ocean and that could cause serious damage to the roughly 1 million birds that call Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge home, said Beth Flint, a Fish & Wildlife biologist based in Honolulu. Such damage could happen, Flint emphasized yesterday, even if the tanker is sunk miles away from the atoll.

"All these tropical seabirds are really pelagic (ocean) feeders, travel huge distances on a daily basis -- easily 40 to 60 miles and it could be up to 300 miles," she said.

The situation is a mixed one. On the one hand, the majority of the Insiko's fuel is diesel, which could dissipate when released in just a few days, Herbert said.

On the other hand, said Flint, diesel is highly toxic and could kill many birds outright. Others might die because the oily fuel on their feathers would make them susceptible to hypothermia in the water.

It could also harm other marine life, Flint said.

Damage to marine life was extensive when the Taiwanese fishing vessel Jin Shiang Fa ran aground at Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in 1993, spilling 100,000 gallons of diesel plus some heavier oil, Flint said.


March 13: Fire sweeps through the engine room of the Insiko 1907, killing one crewman, injuring another and disabling the tanker.

April 2: Norwegian Star cruise ship spots signal from Insiko 220 miles south of the Big Island and rescues 11. The dead crew member is left on board.

April 5: Hawaiian Humane Society launches $50,000 rescue effort for Forgea.

April 7: Rescue effort is called off.

April 20: Crew of Coast Guard C-130 aircraft find Insiko drifting 250 miles east of Johnston Atoll and report seeing a dog on deck. Crew drops food for the dog to eat.

April 21: Fishing boat crew out of Honolulu boards the Insiko and attempts but fails to catch Forgea.

April 23: Insiko drifts into U.S. waters, and the U.S. Coast Guard contracts with American Marine to tow Insiko away from Johnston Atoll. The tugboat American Quest leaves that evening.

April 24: The Humane Society swamps the Coast Guard with e-mail after hearing the tanker may be sunk with Forgea still aboard.

April 25: The Hawaiian Humane Society flies in an animal rescue expert from Montana on standby.

April 26: The American Quest tugboat reaches Insiko. Two crew members board Insiko with food. Forgea approaches them, and they capture her and put her in a portable animal carrier.

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