Brownwater News May 2021

Bridge fracture delays more than 1,000 barges on Lower Mississippi
A fractured beam on a highway bridge spanning the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tenn., caused a three-day closure of the waterway that delayed towboats handling more than 1,000 barges.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation discovered the crack on the Interstate 40 bridge connecting Memphis and Arkansas during a routine inspection on May 11. The span, also known as the Hernando de Soto Bridge, was immediately closed to vehicular traffic, and the U.S. Coast Guard followed suit by implementing a waterway restriction from mile marker 736 to mile marker 737.

“Based on the current information available, we have closed a portion of the Lower Mississippi River out of an abundance of caution,” said Capt. Ryan Rhodes, captain of the Port of Memphis. “The captain of the port is monitoring the situation and will continue to ensure the safety of the maritime environment and surrounding community.”

The Coast Guard lifted its restriction on May 14 after information from the Tennessee Department of Transportation enabled the service to determine that the bridge was safe for maritime traffic, Ryan said. The shutdown delayed 1,058 barges and 62 other vessels.

The bridge remains closed to vehicular traffic, with temporary repairs expected to take a minimum of several weeks.


Army Corps christens largest crane barge on Mississippi River
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers christened Quad Cities, the largest heavy-lift crane barge on the Mississippi River, at a ceremony May 13 in Davenport, Iowa. The 300-by-68-foot vessel follows a barge of the same name that has been used by the Corps’ Rock Island District since 1986.

The new Quad Cities was built by Conrad Shipyard and features a Seatrax crane with a 193-foot boom that can rotate 360 degrees. It’s 500-ton lift capacity — 150 tons more than its predecessor — is designed specifically for handling lock and dam gates at Army Corps facilities on the Upper Mississippi River, although it also will be deployed farther afield.

“The crane and its crew are considered a regional asset supporting projects outside Rock Island District on the Mississippi River, Illinois Waterway and other areas of the country,” the Army Corps said in a prepared statement after the christening.

The new barge’s primary towing vessel is the 124-foot Quincy, previously owned by the Corps’ Louisville District under the name Gordon M. Stevens. Quincy, built in 2008 by Orange Shipbuilding, delivers 3,000 horsepower with overnight accommodations for up to 10 crewmembers.


AWO turning page on COVID, plans in-person summer meeting
After a year of virtual gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Waterways Operators (AWO) is planning its first large in-person event of the year: a meeting of the group’s Summer Safety Committees on Aug. 11-12 at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.

The event will be held “provided the public health situation continues to trend in the right direction,” the AWO said in a letter to members in early May. Information about the schedule, registration, hotel reservations and safety precautions can be found by clicking here.

“AWO understands that not every member will be able to attend these meetings in person, so we are determining how best to allow for virtual participation,” the group said, adding that participants will be able to select “in-person” or “virtual” attendance on the registration page.


Seaway, Great Lakes ports report cargo jump as season opens
The first cargo data of the year from the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes ports reflects an economic upturn across North America as the pandemic recedes. From March 22 through April 30, shipments via the Seaway totaled 4 million metric tons, a 3.7 percent increase from 2020.

Bruce Burrows, president and CEO of the Ottawa-based Chamber of Marine Commerce, said cargo growth in the region is a bellwether for the wider economy.

“These first numbers of the Great Lakes-Seaway shipping season, particularly the increased demand for construction and steel-making materials, are a positive sign that the U.S. and Canadian economies continue to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

General cargo shipments on the Seaway in April increased 23.2 percent from the same month in 2020. The gains were led by shipments of iron and steel, which rose 58 percent. Grain cargoes from the United States and Canada, one of the strongest categories in 2020, were up nearly 10 percent in April.

The chamber reported that the Port of Duluth-Superior floated nearly 4.2 million short tons of cargo through April 30, a 48 percent increase from the same period in 2020. Iron ore tonnage surged 21 percent, topping 2.7 million short tons for the month.

“It’s been a very good start to what we expect will be a bounce-back season for the Port of Duluth-Superior after the COVID-induced lows of 2020,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “Along with total tonnage, our vessel count is also up dramatically, and we’re certainly hoping that trend continues throughout the season.”

Steel-making cargoes also boosted the Port of Toledo as the 2021 shipping season opened. The Ohio port handled more than 1 million tons of iron ore through the end of April, “a good indication that steel demand will be strong in 2021,” said Joseph Cappel, vice president of business development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.


AWO seeks nominees for second tankering safety award
After presenting its inaugural safety award in 2020, the American Waterways Operators’ Tankering & Barge Operations Subcommittee is now accepting nominations for a second worthy recipient.

Last year’s award, which was presented virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, went to CITGO Petroleum’s Marine Department and facility in Lake Charles, La. The AWO said the department received the award “in recognition of its industry-leading commitment to workplace safety, demonstrated by its requirement that the dock operator be present while someone is transiting the gangway from the facility to a vessel. This practice ensures the safety of the individual utilizing the gangway through close visual observation.”

In a letter to members, the AWO encouraged all industry stakeholders to nominate marine transfer facilities “that have made an improvement in equipment, personnel and/or processes to enhance the safety of tankering personnel.” Areas of improvement include mooring, access/egress, transfer equipment handling, vessel and shore communications, flow rates, and line-clearing operations.

The AWO said nominations should include a thorough description of the improvement and how it enhances safety. Nominations must be made by June 30 via the AWO website.

By Professional Mariner Staff