Pacific Producer

The Coast Guard and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation are monitoring the grounding of the Pacific Producer near Ouzinkie. (Photo courtesy of the Coast Guard cutter Mustang)

Jesus Escalera, Mario Escalera and Zach Todd are homeless, broke and have been wearing the same clothes for three days.

The three men flew up from Washington last week to work as processors on the Pacific Producer, which ran aground on Friday and left them adrift with no money and no place to go.

A good Samaritan boat, the fishing vessel Christy, took 10 Pacific Producer crewmen back to Kodiak after the ship ran aground. The Christy’s captain gave them money for breakfast and dropped them off, but the men haven’t been able to get any money or help from the Pacific Producer’s owner, Chris Tsabouris, since that day.

Jesus Escalera said eight of the 10 crewmen are in the same dilemma. The other two have places to stay, but all were told to leave their belongings onboard the boat when they were kicked off the vessel.

“We’re stuck here,” Jesus Escalera said. “We have no money for a flight. We have no choice, but to stay. Chris (Tsabouris) doesn’t call us to see if we’re OK.”

“We’re like straight homeless,” Mario Escalera added.

When the men came to Kodiak last week, they were promised a 45-day processing contract and the opportunity to make between $10,000 and $12,000. Those contracts were never signed before the trip began, they said.

“We got here and he didn’t ask for any paperwork, just our IDs,” Jesus Escalera said. “Chris (Tsabouris) kept us busy, and whenever we asked about the contract, he said ‘later’ and gave us work to do.”

They also claimed they weren’t properly trained in safety procedures before the ship left the harbor.

“If we were really sinking, we probably would’ve drowned,” Zach Todd said. “We weren’t even shown how to put on the safety suits.”

The men said they didn’t know about the Pacific Producer’s track record of spills, unpaid bills and labor trouble, and if they had, they wouldn’t have left their full-time jobs in Washington to come to Kodiak.

Since the incident happened Friday, the eight men have managed to find jobs at Global Seafoods, and are staying at the Brother Francis Shelter. They’ve had to wash and wear the same clothes every day, since they still haven’t received their belongings from the ship. One man is diabetic, and has had to go without his insulin. One of the men has asked the Coast Guard for assistance obtaining their belongings, but they are still waiting to see if that will happen.

Brother Francis director Monte Hawver said this type of situation is common in Kodiak.

“There’s a lot of different ways people can wind up stranded in Kodiak,” Hawver said. “Boats sink, boats break down and all people won’t have work. They get to the point where some on small boats work weeks and weeks and don’t get paid. There are so many holes in this system for low-income workers.”

When people are stranded, the shelter offers them a place to stay and meals. The shelter also encourages them to look for local jobs until they can save enough money to leave Kodiak.

As of Monday afternoon, the Pacific Producer was still stuck on the beach near Ouzinkie.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Chris Houvener of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Kodiak said a plan is in the works to salvage the vessel, but nothing is concrete.

“They do have a company hired to salvage the vessel and they’re currently coming up with the salvage plan to remove her or remove any threat of pollution,” Houvener said.

The ship was headed to the Shelikof Strait when the grounding occurred, and the grounding’s cause is still under investigation.

The Pacific Producer has an estimated 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 6,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia and roughly 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of frozen bait aboard, according to an email from the Coast Guard.

The Pacific Producer reported a 10-inch crack on a hull that goes into a freshwater tank, and six crew still onboard were working to repair it over the weekend. The ship’s owner is among the six.

Global Diving was hired to salvage the vessel, but calls were not returned on Monday.

The Pacific Producer’s owner, Chris Tsabouris, also did not return multiple calls for comment.

Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at nklauss@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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