Lines part, barges run aground in rough weather near Tampa Bay


A barge carrying construction equipment broke away from a pushboat during rough weather and grounded on a barrier island near Bradenton, Fla.

A second barge being pushed by the tugboat Abe H broke free from its spuds less than a day later and ran aground farther south on Longboat Key.

The first barge broke loose at about 0300 on April 8 as a thunderstorm bore down on the Tampa area, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Both accidents are still under investigation.

“There is no foul play or misconduct. It’s weather,” said Lt. Robert Gay of Sector St. Petersburg, who investigated the first grounding. “The storm kicked up and caused those barges to start rocking and rolling and the lines broke and it got away from (the tugboat).”

Gay said the captain of Abe H had one of the barges anchored on its spuds to ride out the storm and was preparing to pull the second barge alongside it. The second barge broke free during this transfer and started drifting. It ended up grounding on Anna Maria Island, near the entrance to Tampa Bay.

“He was spudded down to get ready for a … thunderstorm and he was trying to do some tow work to tighten up and get prepared for the storm and some of his lines broke,” Gay said.

The boat was about a mile west of shore pushing two barges carrying a crane and other construction equipment when the incident occurred. It was traveling south from Tampa to Longboat Key in the Florida Keys for a highway construction project, the Coast Guard said.

Abe H and the barges JBC004 and JBC005 — 140 and 180 feet long, respectively — are owned by Johnson Bros., a construction firm with headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.

Attempts to reach a company representative for comment on the incident were not successful.

After the first barge broke free, Abe H monitored the situation for several hours then left the spudded barge and tied up at a marina to wait until morning, Gay said. At that time, arrangements were made for a larger tugboat to pull JBC005 free from Anna Maria Island.

During the day on April 8, JBC004 broke free from its spuds during rough weather and drifted. It ran onto the sandy beach at Longboat Key and had to be pulled off.  

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather buoy located near Venice, Fla., recorded sustained winds between 18 and 20 mph between 0200 and 0400 on April 8, when the first barge broke free. Winds reached 40 mph at about 1600 that day as another storm front passed through.

That buoy is located about 35 miles south of Bradenton. Weather data for April 8 was not available from several other buoys located closer to Anna Maria Island.

The Coast Guard sent the cutter Hawk, an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat and a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium from Station Cortez to monitor the groundings.

Additional details on the second grounding were not available.

By Professional Mariner Staff