The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(NEW ORLEANS) — Recent incidents involving tug boats owned or operated by DRD Towing prompted the Coast Guard to closely look into the operations of other vessels operated by them.
A preliminary Coast Guard investigation has uncovered that the crewmember piloting the tug boat Mel Oliver, which collided with the chemical tank ship Tintomara early Wednesday morning spilling 420,000 gallons of fuel oil into the Mississippi River, held an apprentice mate’s license.
A formal investigation into the cause of the incident has been ordered by Rear Adm. Joel R. Whitehead, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District. The public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 12 at the Hale Boggs Federal Building, 500 Poydras Street, New Orleans.
Another tug boat operated by DRD Towing, Ruby E, was involved in an incident on July 13, 2008, resulting in the sinking of that vessel. The preliminary investigation into that incident revealed that the crewmember piloting the Ruby E also held an apprentice mate’s license.
Apprentice mates require the presence of a licensed master on board, which was absent on both the Mel Oliver and the Ruby E.
In light of those two incidents, the Coast Guard identified 18 DRD Towing-owned vessels operating through the Western Gulf region, including 12 in New Orleans. The Coast Guard visited all 12 vessels on July 23 and they were all found to be properly manned with adequately licensed personnel.