Barges break loose after captain intentionally grounds tow to avoid bridge

The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:

PITTSBURGH — Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Pittsburgh responded to a report of runaway barges near Brunot Island on the Ohio River Thursday afternoon.

 The barges were quickly retrieved and safely moored at a fleeting area while Coast Guard officials notified marine traffic and began an investigation.

 The towing vessel Bill Stile was transiting up the river under the Brunot Island railroad bridge when the operator intentionally grounded the lead barge to prevent an allision with the bridge at approximately 2:50 p.m.

 To further maintain control of the tow the operator slowly settled itself against the bridge pier. The high river current conditions, along with the grounding of the lead barge, caused three of the nine barges to break loose. Two barges were carried down river, and the vessel’s crew quickly regained the third barge. Two vessels nearby corralled the two loose barges before they caused any damage.

 The Coast Guard immediately notified the bridge owners and received confirmation the bridge was safe to remain open to traffic.

 Coast Guard personnel examined the towing vessel and barges and determined there was no compromise to their seaworthiness. Marine Safety Unit Pittsburgh will continue to work with members of the maritime transportation system to enhance safe operations on the water.

The high water levels in the Port of Pittsburgh can contribute to stronger currents and increased debris in the rivers. The Coast Guard, in cooperation with the Waterways Association of Pittsburgh, regularly engages with our regional port partners to communicate safety advisories for the maritime transportation system. Anyone operating on the rivers should report unsafe conditions to the Sector Ohio Valley Command Center at 800-253-7465.

By Professional Mariner Staff