Barge loaded with heating oil damaged in East River grounding

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating how a tugboat and oil barge ended up aground in Hell Gate on the East River in New York.

No heating oil leaked from the barge in the March 18 accident involving the tug Eagle Service.

The 6,140-hp tug and barge Energy 13502 had departed Riverhead, Long Island, at 0620 with a crew of six en route to the Bayway Refinery complex in New Jersey, said Mark Bottiglieri, chief of the Investigation Division for Coast Guard Sector New York.

Both vessels were owned by Louisiana-based Hornbeck Offshore Services. The 445-foot barge was loaded with 122,000 barrels of No. 6 heating oil. The mate had the watch.

"While transiting through Hell Gate, the Eagle Service was on a right swing under the Triborough Bridge and grounded at 1552 hours on the Bronx side at slack (low) tide," Bottiglieri said.

He said the normal water depth in Hell Gate ranges between 35 and 70 feet. The barge draws 26 feet forward and 27 feet aft. The tug has a draft of 16 feet forward and 17 feet aft. The grounding occurred in 23 to 25 feet of water west of Negro Point on Wards Island, east of Mill Rock, west of a lighted buoy and southwest of Hog Back.

"They were aground but there was movement; they were pivoting with the current,” Bottiglieri said. “Because of that, they sustained some additional damage."

The barge has a double hull and the inner hull was never punctured. One ballast tank was damaged and water from the river entered.

Another tug came to assist as the tide rose, refloating the barge after several hours, and the tugs were able to swing the barge around to the east against the strong current and free it. The maneuver was captured in a video posted on YouTube. By July, the video had more than 5,100 views.

"They were able to make their way down to the Bay Ridge anchorage and drop the hook," Bottiglieri said. Divers surveyed the hull and found scrapes, indentations and a tear in the number three ballast tank. Lighters took off the cargo there and the barge was taken to the GMD Shipyard in Brooklyn for repairs.

There was no indication of drug or alcohol involvement, Bottiglieri said. The investigation is continuing.

By Professional Mariner Staff