Maritime Casualty News, September 2019

Barges break away, hit bridge near Houston

Nine barges broke free from their moorings in the San Jacinto River, and two became stuck under an interstate highway bridge near Houston. There was no pollution and no injuries.

The vessels, loaded with various cargoes, had been moored at Southwest Shipyard LP north of the bridge, the Coast Guard said. Authorities learned about the incident at about 0005 on Sept. 20, as Greater Houston was inundated with heavy rain from Tropical Storm Imelda.

Officials said six barges were corralled relatively soon after the incident. Two barges, one containing naphtha and the other monoethylene glycol, became wedged under the I-10 bridge over the San Jacinto River and remained stuck for two days. The ninth barge, which beached north of the span, also has been moved.

Bridge support columns sustained heavy damage from the incident, and Texas highway officials have closed the span indefinitely. The cost of the repairs is not yet known.

Injured tanker crewman rescued 260 miles offshore

Coast Guard crews rescued a crewman injured aboard an oil tanker some 260 miles offshore.

According to a news release, the 39-year-old man was hurt in a fall aboard the 723-foot, Liberia-flagged New Activity. The agency did not release any further details about the incident, including the cause or the scope of his injuries.

Coast Guard crews from Elizabeth City, N.C., dispatched an HC-130 Hercules air crew for communications and visual oversight, while the MH-60 Jayhawk crew performed the medevac. The injured man was taken to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, where a medical helicopter carried him to a Greenville, N.C., hospital. An update on his condition was not available.

Safety alert warns of unsafe passenger behavior

The Coast Guard is urging vessel operators to be extra vigilant when it comes to passenger behavior while on board.

The agency has issued a safety alert describing injuries and fatalities in recent years stemming from deliberate or accidental falls into the water. People who intentionally jump off passenger vessels could face up to $34,000 in fines, the alert notes.

The Coast Guard alert recommends operators take steps to minimize this behavior. They include posting signage and/or noting in safety briefings that passengers should not stand on benches or sit on railings.

The agency also suggests making clear such behavior can have consequences by posting “signage warning passengers of the penalties that may be assessed for any passenger who enters the water in an unauthorized manner.”

Click here to read the full alert.

Casualty flashback: September 1960

SS Ithaka ran aground in Bird Cove, Manitoba, near Churchill on Sept. 14, 1960, during a severe storm. The vessel ultimately sank after getting stuck on the gravel bottom and enduring a heavy pounding from wind and waves.

The 251-foot vessel built almost three decades earlier in Quebec was sailing under a Greek flag during its final voyage. Ithaka carried plywood, generators and other cargoes on its final run in the Hudson Bay.

The vessel was returning to port after encountering 80-mph winds when the captain dropped anchor. The vessel’s anchor chain parted, and its rudder broke before the ship went adrift and grounded some 750 feet from shore on a shallow bank.

All 37 people on board were rescued by the Coast Guard ship CCGS William Alexander, which carried them back to Winnipeg.

Ithaka Shipping Co. acquired the ship less than a year before the incident. Its insurer, Lloyd’s of London, considered the incident potentially troubling and refused to pay out on the vessel claim, according to published reports.

By Professional Mariner Staff