Coast Guard Aids Ship Near Alaska After Steering Fails

A disabled fish-processing ship adrift in the stormy Gulf of Alaska (search) with 204 people aboard was taken under tow by a Coast Guard cutter Tuesday.

The 325-foot Independence's steering system failed Monday in 20-foot seas with blowing snow and wind as high as 60 mph. The weather calmed overnight, but the wind still was blowing at about 23 mph and the waves were running at 8 to 10 feet, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Roger Wetherell said Tuesday.

Two Coast Guard (search) cutters reached the Independence on Tuesday and one started towing it toward Juneau, about 300 miles away, the Coast Guard said.

The Independence's steering failed Monday as the vessel was heading back to Seattle (search) following the end of its cod season, said Joe Plesha, an attorney for the ship's owner, Seattle-based Trident Seafoods Corp.

"The ship still has its own power," he said. "It's not an issue of power but of steering."

The Independence, built in 1938, has a history of mechanical and other problems, according to Coast Guard records. From 1994 through 2001, the Coast Guard investigated 10 incidents involving the vessel in Alaska, Washington state and Oregon. Seven involved mechanical problems and three involved discharge of oil.

Plesha said he had not seen those Coast Guard reports and could not comment.