Real `Mutiny' In Aleutians? FBI Checking -- Boat Crew Reportedly On Rampage Over Pay
DUTCH HARBOR, Alaska - Two FBI agents were shuttling between the remote Aleutian Island port of Dutch Harbor yesterday and the fishing vessel Arctic Hero to investigate reports of a riotous uprising that authorities say could amount to mutiny.
``I would say it's an alleged mutiny, I wouldn't call it anything more than that,'' said Joe Schulte, the FBI's special agent in charge in Anchorage.
Coast Guard investigators were alerted to trouble aboard the Seattle-based vessel Arctic Hero about 3:30 p.m. Friday when the skipper radioed for help.
According to reports, ship's master Keith Dillon said trouble began when crew members quit the trawler's fish-processing line, armed themselves with clubs and fire axes and beat the vessel's chief engineer.
Coast Guard spokesman Ed Moreth said yesterday the engineer needed medical help but wasn't gravely injured.
Moreth said the uprising was linked to late wages.
The master said seven crewmen broke into a locker on board the Arctic Hero, drank some of the beer inside and managed to take over parts of the ship.
Dillon told authorities he never lost control of his ship. But he said he did lose radio contact with the Coast Guard when crew burst into the wheelhouse.
Moreth said the chief engineer retained some control by securing the watertight doors of the engine room from the inside. Other crewmen went into hiding.
The Coast Guard cutter Mellon was dispatched to intercept the 205-foot factory trawler while it was still about 100 miles west of Dutch Harbor. Bad weather kept the cutter's crew from boarding the trawler Friday night, but radio contact was re-established and by yesterday morning the Coast Guard said the situation on board had calmed.
The cutter escorted the Arctic Hero to Dutch Harbor where residents said it was moored some distance away and had not pulled up to the city dock.
At the Dutch Harbor dock, meanwhile, information was still sketchy yesterday: One man who said he flew in from Hawaii to work for the company that owns the Arctic Hero said he'd heard about a possible mutiny, and the beer-drinking and lack of pay.
``The Japanese are just pushing them too hard; the men are stressed out,'' said Greg Brooks, who was answering phones in the offices of AKC Corp., which owns the Arctic Hero. An AKC employee in Seattle said last night the company expects to issue a statement about the incident tomorrow.
The Coast Guard said all 45 crew members aboard the vessel are U.S. citizens, but according to a published report a major interest in AKC is owned by a fishing magnate in Japan.
Dillon said his crew apparently didn't believe him when he said checks would be waiting at Dutch Harbor.
Several citations of fishing violations have been imposed against AKC for incidents involving its ships. In August, two other AKC ships were seized because Japanese fishing advisers, and not authorized U.S. officers, were deemed to be running the vessels. The Arctic Hero, which is a few months old, has never been cited.
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