The following is the text of a news release from the Bahamas Ministry of Transport and Aviation:
(FREEPORT, Bahamas) — Thursday, March 6, 2014, at approximately 1400 hours, the Port Department received a call from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force stating that there was a fire onboard a 730-foot triple-deck barge that was en route to Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Fla. The barge was approximately 85 nautical miles northeast of the Island of Abaco, and she was being towed by a 127-foot tugboat Patriarch. The barge was fully laden with a variety of containerized cargo. Both the barge and the tug are owned by Crowley Shipping Company.
Immediately following the incident, three salvage/firefighting tugboats from Svitzer Salvage and Towage and a United States Coast Guard cutter Robert Yered were dispatched to the barge’s location to offer assistance and monitor the situation. In order to assist in monitoring the coastline, the crewmembers and the barge, three flyovers have been conducted since March 6. These were done as safety precautions and to assist in monitoring the incident.
An Emergency Operating Centre has been established in Grand Bahama by Crowley to manage the situation and provide information to key Governmental departments. As the fire was brought under control on Saturday, representatives from Crowley requested permission for the barge to sail into Grand Bahama to conduct cleaning activities and repairs.
On Saturday at 3 p.m., a meeting was convened with Crowley representatives and various Local agencies inclusive of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, the Ministry of The Environment and Housing, the Port Department, the BEST Commission and the Royal Bahamas Police Force Fire Branch, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Environmental Department of the Grand Bahama Port Authority. The purpose of the meeting was to assess the incident and determine if it was safe for the vessel to sail into port. A careful review was undertaken of the proposed safety measures, and it was determined that they were adequate. Approval was therefore granted by the Port Controller for the barge to sail into Freeport Harbour.
On Sunday at approximately 10:24 a.m., the barge was safely escorted to the Grand Bahama shipyard to commence cleaning activities and repairs. Daily reports will be provided to the Ministry of Transport and Aviation and the barge will be inspected prior to departing drydock to ensure that it is seaworthy. There were no injuries or environmental damage reported in this incident. Investigations are continuing into the cause of the fire, and the Captain has been requested to submit a report to the Port Controller within 48 hours of the barge's arrival in Freeport, Grand Bahama. An incident management team, consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, the Port Department, the BEST Commission and the Department of Environment Health Services representatives is continuing to monitor the situation to ensure that any additional follow up action required, is taken.