‘Miscommunication’ during passing eyed in LMR collision

More than 60 barges broke free on the Lower Mississippi River after two towboats collided near Angola, La. 

The Ingram Barge Co. towboat Carol McManus was upbound pushing 42 barges when it collided with the downbound Florida Marine Transporters towboat Big D, which had 19 barges in tow. The incident happened on January 9, 2023, at about 0200 near mile marker 311. 

All 62 barges broke free after the two tows collided “head-on,” Coast Guard spokesman Gabriel Wisdom said. One of Big D’s barges loaded with ethanol spilled a small amount of product into the waterway. Nobody on either vessel was hurt. 

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident and has not yet determined a cause. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicated a miscommunication between the two vessels may have been a factor. 

“The cause of the collision was reported as miscommunication of passing arrangements between the vessel Carol McManus … and Big D,” NOAA said on its Incident News website. 

Key details about the incident were not available as of late February, including the number of crew on each vessel and which crewmembers were operating each tow. Details about the cargoes Carol McManus pushed also could not be found. 

Big D was primarily pushing barges loaded with dry cargo. However, three tank barges were loaded with ethanol. One barge sustained a 12-by-6-inch puncture above the waterline on the port bow corner, according to NOAA. 

Wisdom, the Coast Guard spokesman, said roughly 10 gallons of ethanol from the damaged barge escaped into the waterway. 

Two unidentified assist tugboats responded to the drifting barges, a process that lasted about 90 minutes. The Coast Guard closed the river between mile markers 285 and 317 during the barge retrieval operation but re-opened the waterway at about 0400 once all 62 barges were accounted for. 

The 180-foot, 8,400-hp Carol McManus was built in 1969 and joined the Ingram Barge fleet more than a decade ago. A spokesperson of the Nashville-based towing company declined to comment, citing the ongoing Coast Guard investigation. 

Florida Marine Transporters of Mandeville, La., operates the 140-foot 6,000-hp towboat Big D, which was built in 2012. The company did not respond to inquiries about the collision.