Maritime Casualty News, February 2014

Fuel spills in Mississippi River collision

About 31,500 gallons of light crude oil spilled from a tank barge that hit a towboat on the Mississippi River. The incident occurred Feb. 22 near Vacherie, La., 47 miles west of New Orleans.

The barge, No. E2MS303, one of two loaded with light crude and being pushed by the 84.5-foot Hannah C. Settoon, reportedly collided with the 168-foot towboat Lindsay Ann Erickson, which was pushing grain barges. The U.S. Coast Guard said the towboat did not appear to suffer any damage.

A 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi River was closed between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. A day later 26 vessels were waiting for the river to reopen, according to the Coast Guard.

As of Feb. 24, the lower Mississippi River was reopened from mile marker 90 to mile marker 130 and remained closed from mile marker 130 to 155. The waterway was completely reopened that afternoon.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough said the rest of the oil on the damaged barge had been pumped into another barge. The Coast Guard, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and ES&H, Inc. were on scene for cleanup operations.

The cause of the collision is under investigation. The U.S. Coast Guard said there were no injuries and all barges remained secured.

Hannah C. Settoon was built in 2010 and is owned by Settoon Towing LLC of Pierre Part, La. Lindsay Ann Erickson, built in 1982, is owned by General Electric Capital Corp. of Irving, Texas.


Coast Guard assists sinking fishing vessel

A fishing vessel with six crewmembers aboard was taking on water approximately 173 miles north of Oahu, Hawaii, Feb. 10.

According to a U.S. Coast Guard press release, at 1115, a good Samaritan notified watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu Command Center that the 66-foot commercial fishing vessel Sea Moon was flooded and dead in the water with crewmembers using buckets to dewater the boat.

Via satellite phone, the crew reported to the Coast Guard that they were equipped with life jackets, life rafts, flares and an EPIRB.

An HC-130 Hercules airplane crew was diverted with dewatering pumps aboard and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew launched from Air Station Barbers Point. Also launched was the Coast Guard Cutter Ahi, an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Honolulu, and Sea Moon’s sister ship Sapphire was rerouted.

The Hercules crew arrived on-scene at 1251 and dropped a dewatering pump to the fishing vessel. With the dewatering pump aboard, Sea Moon’s crew was able to stop the flooding and restart the engine. Sea Moon then proceeded under its own power to Honolulu.


Crane barge spills diesel in Maine river

A crane barge that had been tethered to a dock collided with rocks and ice on the shore and began spilling diesel and oil into Maine's Damariscotta River, Feb. 7.

Approximately 100 gallons of diesel oil spilled in the river off the coast of Bristol, near an aquaculture facility in Walpole. According to a U.S. Coast Guard press release, the 30-foot barge is equipped with two internal diesel fuel tanks and had a maximum capacity of 200 gallons.

Responding to the spill were Coast Guard stations Boothbay Harbor and Northern New England, Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection, and the South Bristol Fire Dept. Sorbent booms and pads were deployed around an estimated area of 100 yards by 20 yards to contain the fuel.

Bristol Fire Chief Paul Leeman said the tide and lack of wind actually helped the cause, as the oil was largely contained to the area around the dock.


Amver ship rescues 24 from sinking cargo vessel

The 500-foot cargo ship Rich Forest experienced flooding in the engine room and loss of propulsion on Jan 19. The 24 Chinese crewmembers aboard abandoned ship the next day, approximately 440 miles west of the U.S. island territory of Guam.

Coast Guard Sector Guam Command Center received a call from Rich Forest at about 0800. The crew reported the vessel was taking on 160 tons of water per hour and generators had failed.

Coast Guard watchstanders identified four merchant vessels to provide assistance under the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System (Amver). C.S. Sunshine rescued all of the survivors from life rafts and safely brought them aboard without incident. The 24 survivors were safely transferred from C.S. Sunshine to the Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia, Jan. 22.

The ship was carrying logs to China. Rich Forest was last reported to be riding low at the stern, but still afloat.


Casualty flashback: February 1901

On Feb. 22, 1901, the 343-foot passenger ship SS City of Rio de Janeiro was transiting the Golden Gate Strait in heavy fog and struck a submerged reef of rocks, causing the vessel to sink.

The steam-powered SS City of Rio de Janeiro was inbound to its homeport of San Francisco, from Hong Kong with 210 passengers and crew aboard. The vessel sank in 320 feet of water only eight minutes after striking the reef, now known as Mile Rocks.

Of the 11 lifeboats that were available, only three were lowered and two of those became submerged because they were lowered improperly. One lifeboat was successfully lowered. The wreck was so sudden that the lookout at the Fort Point Lifesaving Station, only a few hundred yards away, was unaware of the situation for two hours, when the lifeboat was seen emerging from the fog. Italian fishermen were nearby and were able to rescue a number of survivors clinging to wreckage. As a result, 81 people survived and 129 were killed.

According to, Capt. William Ward’s “headless body was found washed up on the shore near Baker's Beach on July 12, 1902. He was identified by the numbers on a watch he was wearing and which was purchased from a local jeweler.”

SS City of Rio de Janeiro was first launched in 1878 as a passenger ship between San Francisco and various Asian Pacific ports. Pacific Mail Steamship Co. was the owner of the ship at the time of the accident.

The wreck was never salvaged and was added the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 11, 1988. The accident inspired the building of the 85-foot Mile Rocks Lighthouse, in 1906, designed to stop future disasters in the narrow channel.

By Professional Mariner Staff