Barge splits after towboat grounds, closing GIW

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The following is text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(NEW ORLEANS) — The Coast Guard reopened the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIW) near Berwick, La., to vessel traffic after salvage operations were completed Friday.

“We have been grateful for the patience, understanding, and cooperative spirit of our industry partners as we all work to resolve this unfortunate event as quickly as possible,” said Cmdr. Heather Mattern, commanding officer, Marine Safety Unit Morgan City. “Industry has been coming to us throughout the week offering ways we can work together and assist our teams in clearing up what has become a heavily backlogged waterway. Our priority now is to restore normal vessel traffic flow to the critical waterway safely and efficiently.”

Working in conjunction with senior industry partners and members of the area Marine Transportation System Recovery and Safety Committee, a Marine Transportation System recovery plan was developed to expeditiously restore the waterway to normal operation and clear the queued backlog of commercial traffic.

With the assistance of local towing vessel companies and through coordinated control of vessel movement by Vessel Traffic Service Berwick Bay, the Coast Guard estimates it will be able to restore the waterway to normal traffic within the week.

The vessel queue as of 1:15 p.m. Friday was 26 tugs and 54 barges southbound, 107 tugs and 296 barges westbound, 87 tugs and 262 barges eastbound, and four tugs and 16 barges northbound.


(NEW ORLEANS) — The Coast Guard continued to monitor salvage operations Thursday involving the rock barge ACL 01700, which sank after a grounding on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway on Sunday near mile marker 99 in Berwick, La. 

Recovery of the vessel involves removing over 1,600 tons of the aggregate rock cargo, followed by the heavily damaged steel barge, while working in a challenging waterway location. Salvage efforts are continuing through day and night operations. 

“Our top priority is to reopen this critical waterway as quickly and safely as possible,” said Cmdr. Heather Mattern, commanding officer, Marine Safety Unit Morgan City.

The queue of vessels awaiting transit as of 1:30 p.m. Thursday included more than 190 towing vessels and 560 barges. Salvagers removed more than 80 percent of the aggregate rock cargo by Thursday morning.

“The location of the wreck is in a particularly critical point along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, as it is adjacent to the intersection with the Atchafalaya River, a meeting point for two major shipping channels, along which most of the gulf’s maritime commerce transits,” said Lt. Cmdr. Zach Robertson, prevention department head at Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City. “This area is unusually challenging to navigate this time of year due to seasonal high water levels and rapidly changing currents.”

The weekend weather forecast calls for conditions favorable for salvage operations to continue uninterrupted. Based off current traffic forecasts and queue estimates, the Coast Guard expects it will take an additional three to four days after the waterway is reopened to move these vessels through the waterway and get back to normal operations.

The towing vessel company hired a salvage company to assist in salvaging the barge and clearing the waterway obstruction as quickly as possible. Members from Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City and Marine Safety Center’s Salvage Engineering Response Team have been providing technical support for the recovery effort.

The Coast Guard Houma captain of the port secured all tow traffic in the location of the barge.


(NEW ORLEANS) — The Coast Guard is responding to a report of a towing vessel that ran aground on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIW) at mile marker 99, near Berwick, La., on Monday. 

Watch standers at Vessel Traffic Service Berwick Bay received a report at approximately 10 p.m. Sunday that the towing vessel Miss Odessa, guiding six hopper barges filled with rock, ran aground.

Miss Odessa was reportedly transiting southbound on the Atchafalaya River when it turned west onto the GIW and hit bottom. Miss Odessa, in an attempt to break free, tore apart a barge, causing it to split in half.

Members from Marine Safety Unit Morgan City’s marine inspections team and investigations team arrived on scene at 8:30 a.m. Monday to assess the incident. The response teams reported no damage to Miss Odessa or the other five barges. No pollution has been reported in the area.

The Coast Guard has secured all tow traffic in the location of the barge.

The vessel queue as of 2:30 p.m. Monday was 12 southbound, six westbound, 28 eastbound and four northbound.

The towing vessel company has hired a salvage company to assist the salvage of the barge. A Coast Guard salvage engineering response team is also assisting.

By Professional Mariner Staff