The following is text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:
(NEW ORLEANS) —The Coast Guard is pursuing enforcement action against Bouchard Transportation Co. after the shipping company failed to comply with a captain of the port order for one of its two vessels anchored in the Marine Safety Unit Port Arthur, Texas, area of responsibility.
The tugs Kim M. Bouchard and Danielle M. Bouchard and their associated barges have been anchored off Texas Point since mid-December with no known plans to move and crews unpaid since January, raising safety concerns for the crews remaining aboard as well as the public and other professional mariners, and environmental concerns for the region.
In accordance with the current captain of the port order, maximum civil penalties for the company may include fines of $94,219 for each violation and a Class D felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
Capt. Jacqueline Twomey, captain of the port of Port Arthur, issued captain of the port orders to both tugs Feb. 10 to resolve problems regarding staffing and safety. Danielle M. Bouchard’s order was amended to require additional repairs or to be moored at a dock. Twomey granted a three-day extension to the order for Danielle M. Bouchard at the company’s request, but the company failed to comply by the extended deadline of Sunday. She denied a second extension request.
Multiple Coast Guard men and women are in daily contact with crews remaining aboard both vessels to ensure they are safe and have adequate provisions. Twomey visited both tugs Tuesday and expressed her gratitude to the professional mariners aboard who understand their responsibility to the waterways and are continuing to diligently stand their watch and weather the situation to the best of their abilities. She assured them the Coast Guard’s top priority is their safety and well-being. She also told them all related fines and penalties will not be directed at them, but rather at Bouchard Transportation Co.
Combined, the tugs and barges are carrying nearly 200,000 gallons of oil, gas and other potential pollutants.
“The Coast Guard expects vessel owners to proactively manage the safety of their vessels and ensure operators have sufficient resources to maintain compliance with applicable requirements, and it is our responsibility to the public, professional mariners, and the marine transportation system to hold companies accountable when safety demands it,” Twomey said.