Cement barge under tow veers off course, then runs aground near Vancouver Island

A barge carrying 1,200 tons of cement sheered, ran aground and flooded on New Year’s Eve in a narrow channel off British Columbia’s Vancouver Island.

The 197-foot Lafarge SA barge Warrior was being towed by the 48-foot tug Inlet Rover when it grounded at 1430 near McMicking Point. The waterway is the 300-foot wide Enterprise Channel between Vancouver Island and Trial Island.

The tug captain, Dave Hodgson, 65, said he doesn’t know what caused the large barge to get away from him in the channel, near Oak Bay, B.C.

“For some reason we lost control of the barge and, despite our best efforts, couldn’t regain control, as it was too tight an area," said Hodgson, a 47-year veteran of the towing industry. “It was sheering before that. We’ve made that passage many times under more severe wind and tidal conditions and nothing went wrong."

The 640-hp Inlet Rover was underway from Vancouver to Victoria with 1,200 tons of cement in the barge when it grounded. The vessel remained stuck until it was lightered and refloated Jan. 4.

According to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Victoria, the wind was blowing out of the southeast at 25 knots at the time of the grounding.

Hodgson said he initially attempted to pull the barge free, but there was a falling tide so it was soon hard aground. Other tugs arrived throughout the night and on the morning of Jan. 1. Hodgson said the barge flooded and it was “really stuck fast."

Unlike many other barges in use today, according to Hodgson, the Warrior is effectively an open hold, making it vulnerable if holed.

“The grounding didn’t do it any good," he said, explaining that the interior of the barge had two cargo compartments and a machine room. “It is open basically, so when you get damage it can flood the whole barge. The watertight doors between the cargo spaces weren’t watertight, so the machine compartment and the fore and aft compartments had water damage as far as I know."

Another barge was brought alongside and cement was removed before the barge could be refloated.

“They had to build a system to take a couple hundred tons of cement out," Hodgson said. “They stopped the doors leaking so they could pump air into it and put an air bubble in."

Dan Bate, a spokesman for the Canadian Coast Guard said Warrior was towed off the rocks Jan. 4 by the tugs Seaspan Foam and Cates 20 when the tide got high enough again.

John Cottreau, a spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board, said the TSB did an initial examination and some information gathering of the agency’s statistical data base, but will not be investigating further.

“The investigator decided to call it a Class Five," Cottreau said. “It boils down to this: we investigate selected accidents when there is an opportunity to learn some safety lesson and learn the cause factors. In this accident there wasn’t the opportunity to learn anything new and the investigator decided not to proceed."

By Professional Mariner Staff