Authorities probe damage after tugboat runs into Louisiana pier

A tugboat struck and damaged a New Orleans pier on Christmas Eve, authorities said. The pier was still closed in March.

Miss Danielle, owned and operated by Chem Carriers in Sunshine, La., ran into Piety Street Wharf, according to Matt Gresham, spokesman for the Port of New Orleans. The incident occurred during a period of high water on the Mississippi River. The boat operator reported that conditions were foggy. 

No one was injured in the incident, which occurred at about 1730 hours, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) spokesman Officer Frank Robertson said. The wharf is in Crescent Park along the river in the city’s Bywater section. The park is managed by the French Market Corp., a public-benefits entity giving part of its revenue to the city. 

“The wharf was struck late on Dec. 24, and has been closed to the public since damage was discovered on Dec. 25,” Hayne Rainey, spokesman for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said in February. “Because of the high river, an assessment of the damage hasn’t been conducted. … A more thorough assessment will be done once the river subsides.”

After the accident, Miss Danielle’s crew moved the tug across the river to Star Fleet on the West Bank, a mile and a half south of the Piety Street Wharf, according to a Chem Carriers official who refused to be identified by name. “It was foggy at sunset, the river was high and we don’t operate in unsafe conditions,” he said. “We did our due diligence and discussed the accident with authorities. I spoke with NOPD and the New Orleans Harbor Police in a recorded phone conversation for 45 minutes on Dec. 25.”

Star Fleet, owned by Harbor Towing and Fleeting in New Orleans, is a barge fleeting and mooring facility in Algiers, across the river from downtown New Orleans. 

The vessel is believed to have caused damage, according to the NOPD. “The wharf’s steel walls were bent inward, and the concrete holding the steel walls appeared to be cracked and broken,” Robertson said. “Lights affixed to the concrete, where the concrete and steel meet, were broken and non-operational. There were several impact marks on the outside of the steel wall, where the watercraft may have collided with it.”

The wharf was old and dilapidated, the Chem Carriers spokesman said. His company plans to have a marine surveyor assess the structure after the river eases, he said. 

“The Coast Guard doesn’t have any information about the incident,” said Lora Ratliff, Coast Guard spokeswoman in New Orleans. “The extent of the damage is unknown due to the river’s high state. A more thorough examination will be conducted by the wharf owner once the water level goes down. The vessel owner has not filed a damage report with the Coast Guard.”

Under Coast Guard regulations, an accident causing more that $25,000 in losses to docks, wharves or bridges must be reported immediately to its Marine Safety Office, followed by written notification in five days.

By Professional Mariner Staff