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Fuel, Ammonium Nitrate Making Way Through Port of Nome

Nome's Small Boat Harbor. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM

It was another busy week for the Port of Nome. Harbormaster Lucas Stotts reported that in addition to the usual sea-faring traffic, two fuel tankers have been anchored off-shore and recently completed a delivery of diesel and jet fuel into Nome.

“They’re going out for one more trip,” said Stotts at a Nome Port Commission meeting Thursday night. “Then we’ll be done… for almost 3 million gallons brought in.”

Some of that fuel will go toward powering the city, as part of Nome’s annual diesel purchase, said utilities manager John Handeland at a joint utility board meeting earlier in the week.

He added that this year, the city caught a break — while the tankers were transporting and delivering the fuel, prices dipped by roughly 2 cents, from $3.39 to $3.37 a gallon. Handeland says, when it comes to a multi-million gallon refill, that translates to quite a savings.

But diesel isn’t the only flammable material making its way through the Nome port this month. Stotts announced that the port is preparing for a delivery of 21 containers of the explosive ammonium nitrate at the end of September.

“It is a pretty big load,” he said. “A lot of containers. But I’ve talked to the trucking company as well as the guys bringing it in, they’re trying to expedite that… process.”

According to Stotts, the move required special permissions from the Coast Guard — due, in part, to the order’s size, as well as the fact that blasting caps, which are igniting agents, will be transported with the explosive material.

For this reason, the port will be taking extra precautions. Stotts said the fire department will be on scene with two charged hoses, and a crew will be on standby from when the order arrives until the last container leaves port property. He added that the Port of Nome has received previous orders of ammonium nitrate for use in mining operations, but those orders have not typically exceeded 15 containers — and haven’t included blasting caps. Without the caps, Stotts said, ammonium nitrate is basically “just fertilizer.”

Though the final destination of the ammonium nitrate was not immediately clear at Thursday’s meeting, commission chairman Jim West indicated that the material and blasting caps will be stored separately, but within city limits.