Bulk carrier loses steering, hits two moored vessels in Louisiana

A grain carrier lost power, went off-course and struck a moored tanker and barge at a Louisiana terminal last summer.

Four vessels were involved in the Aug. 12 incident on the lower Mississippi River near the Gretna ferry landing in Jefferson Parish at mile marker 97.4, across from uptown New Orleans. The Maltese-flagged bulk carrier Flag Gangos lost power and steering that night. It struck two vessels moored at the International Matex Tank Terminals on the river’s west bank. 

The 607-foot Gangos is owned by Golden Union Enterprises SA in Greece.

One of the moored vessels was the Liberian-flagged, 751-foot double-hulled oil tanker Pamisos, built in 2011 and operated by Pleiades Shipping Agents SA in Greece. The other was WEB 235, a 30,000-barrel black oil and asphalt barge, owned by Blessey Marine Services in New Orleans. The tanker and barge, which were engaged in separate marine activities at the time, sustained damage. No workers were injured.

The crew of the 2,000-hp towing vessel Captain Shawn D. Martinez, also owned by Blessey, was transferring No. 6 fuel oil from the barge when the barge broke away. About 580 gallons of oil was discharged from the transfer hose into the river, according to the Coast Guard. Operators shut off the hose when it began to leak.

“The incident occurred around 11 p.m., and the Coast Guard was informed early the next morning,” Coast Guard spokesman Seth Johnson in New Orleans said. “Employees from IMTT put down boom.” 

A boat crew from Coast Guard Station New Orleans and Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin helicopters headed to the site of the incident.

“The Coast Guard captain of the Port of New Orleans instituted one-way traffic restrictions,” Johnson said. The Coast Guard sent investigators to the scene. “Jefferson Parish personnel and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration science staff were also involved in the response.”

At the time of the incident, winds were calm and skies were cloudy. Weather was not considered to be a factor. The area was reopened to river traffic between mile markers 96 and 98 at 1400 Aug. 13. The cleanup took three days, however, Johnson said.

Spokespeople for Pleiades Shipping and Blessey Marine couldn’t comment on damages or repairs to their vessels, pending a Coast Guard investigation of the incident and a lawsuit. 

A suit was filed against Golden Union Enterprises SA and M/V Flag Gangos on Aug. 14 in Louisiana Eastern District Court by Blessey Marine Services, IMTT Gretna, Lorelle Shipping Inc. and Big Three LLC. Houston-based Tauber Oil Co. is a consol plaintiff in that suit.

Drinking-water supplies in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes weren’t affected by the fuel oil spill, officials said. Service from the Gretna ferry landing to New Orleans wasn’t operating at the time after it ceased last year due to budget cuts. 

IMTT Gretna, a subsidiary of Macquarie Infrastructure Co. in New York, is a tank facility for petroleum products, vegetable oils and chemicals.

By Professional Mariner Staff