The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(ST. LOUIS) – The Coast Guard Captain of the Port St. Louis set a safety zone on the Mississippi River in response to 116 barges breaking away from their moorings, Saturday.
The safety zone extends from MM 165 to MM 176. The waterway is closed to all vessels except those directly involved in the recovery efforts.
At approximately 6:53 a.m., watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River received a call of multiple barges that had broken free of their moorings. These barges were floating freely and represented an immediate danger to facilities and bridges in the Port of St. Louis. An Urgent Marine Information Broadcast requesting all boats in the area to respond was transmitted. There were a total of 116 barges impacted by the breakaway. At this time it is reported that all barges are secured, with no injuries, pollution, or critical infrastructure affected. Tank barges with hazardous cargo have been accounted for and are safe.
“Our top priority is safety of life. The Coast Guard is charged with providing a safe, efficient, and navigable waterway system that commerce and citizens use daily,” said Capt. Martin Malloy, Sector Commander for Sector Upper Mississippi River. “Situations like this pose a significant and very dynamic risk. The Coast Guard urges everyone to be cautious on the river and extends a thank you to the fleet and barge operators in St. Louis harbor for such a quick and professional response to control the breakaway without any safety incidents.”
The Coast Guard will conduct an over flight of the area early this afternoon with the assistance of Illinois State Police Air Division.
Mariners shall not enter into, depart from, or move within the safety zone unless specifically authorized by the Captain of the Port St. Louis or a designated representative.
All concerned mariners may contact watchstanders at SUMR at 314-269-2332 or Coast Guard on VHF-FM channel 16.