Maritime Casualty News June 2021

Vessel stolen from Seattle wharf 

A small vessel owned by Argosy Cruises was stolen from a Seattle wharf by someone who claimed there were explosives on board and made veiled threats against local ferry lines.

Authorities boarded the vessel in Puget Sound near Marrowstone Island, west of Whidbey Island, and apprehended the suspect, who has not been identified. It is not clear what crimes the suspect has been charged with.

Argosy Cruises reported the 32-foot Beaver stolen at about 0750 on June 25. Authorities tracked the vessel as it headed north in Puget Sound, the Coast Guard said in a news release. Later that morning the subject on board made unspecific threats about hostages and explosives using VHF channel 16.

Authorities boarded the vessel and apprehended the subject without incident. Beaver is used by Argosy as a training vessel, among other purposes.

“As Captain of the Port, I’m proud of the decisive response by the Coast Guard and our interagency partners to successfully de-escalate a complex active threat to the Maritime Transportation System, quickly providing for the maritime safety and security of the boating public,” said Capt. Patrick Hilbert, commander, Sector Puget Sound, said in a statement.

The vessel returned to shore at about 1630 the same afternoon. Authorities did not disclose any damage to the vessel or the facility from which it was taken.

Barge breakaways close Stennis, Tom Bevill locks

Authorities closed two lock structures on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in mid-June following separate barge breakaways.

The first incident occurred June 10 at the John C. Stennis Lock at Tenn-Tom mile 334.7, near Columbus, Miss. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District closed the facility due to high water and a runaway barge that hit the dam’s spillway.

Two days later, a barge hit the Tom Bevill Lock and Dam at Tenn-Tom mile 306.8 in Pickinsville, Ala., during the overnight on June 12. The barge partially blocked dam gates and caused some flooding upriver.

1280px Usace John C Stennis Lock And Dam
The John C. Stennis Lock and Dam on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo

“Similar to the barge incident at Stennis, the Tom Bevill Lock is currently closed due to a runaway barge hitting the spillway and blocking flow from the gates,” said Nelson Sanchez, Chief of Operations Division for the Mobile District, in a statement. “Salvage vessels are in route to Bevill to assist with removal of the barge once water levels recede to a safe operating level. The forecast shows favorable conditions and water levels should continue to recede.”

Barges have since been removed from both lock and dam structures. The breakaways, which occurred during periods of heavy rainfall, are under investigation. Additional details on the two incidents were not available.

Coast Guard issues warning about transits under power lines

The U.S. Coast Guard is warning mariners to be vigilant when passing under high voltage power lines following an incident in Louisiana where a barge struck power lines that were lower than their charted height.

The incident in question happened on Dec. 14, 2020, when a tugboat was pushing an uninspected spud barge on Bayou Teche, off the Intracoastal Waterway, in Charenton, La. The highest spud on the barge had an air draft of 45 feet on the starboard bow, the Coast Guard said in a notice published earlier this year. The power lines had a charted height of 65 feet.

A barge spud hit an energized power line. “As a result, the power line parted with one end of the line landing on a mobile storage container on the barge, which contained pipeline waste,” the Coast Guard said in its Findings of Concern report. “As the line touched the metal tank near the cargo hatch, sparks ignited escaping vapors causing a small fire, which the crew was able to extinguish with an onboard fire extinguisher.”

The Coast Guard later determined the overhead power lines were not being properly maintained as charted on the applicable navigation chart.

The service issued a series of recommendations for industry and federal regulators such as the Army Corps of Engineers to verify overhead power lines remain at the height for which they are charted and permitted.

Casualty flashback: June 1926

Three people died when a Hudson River sidewheeler collided with an oil barge in fog and later sank pier-side in Jersey City, N.J.

The 416-foot Washington Irving was flagship of the Hudson River Day Line, which in the 1950s was acquired by Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises.

The incident happened at about 0900 the morning of June 1, 1926, as the vessel left the Desbrosses Street Pier bound for Albany. One or two barges pushed by a tugboat collided with the vessel on the starboard side, opening a hole below the waterline.

The vessel returned to Jersey City under duress in thick fog with support from area tugboats. Two passengers and a steward sank with the ship, which went down within minutes from reaching the pier. The victims were stuck below deck and were unable to exit the vessel.

The vessel sank atop the Holland Tunnel, which reportedly complicated efforts to remove it. The salvage occurred in February 27, with the vessel being a total loss.

By Professional Mariner Staff