Runaway bulk carrier damages tanker, towboats, Louisiana dock


A bulk carrier broke free from its moorings, crossed the Mississippi River and struck a tanker and several towing vessels, resulting in damage to a dock.
The 750-foot Privocean, carrying coal, escaped from its berth at Convent, La., on April 6 and crossed the Mississippi River, pulling the tug Texas to which it was tied. Privocean hit the tanker Bravo and slammed into the Ergon-St. James dock.

Convent is on the Mississippi River’s east bank at mile marker 161 while the Ergon dock is on the west bank. The incident occurred at roughly 1600 hours.
Privocean is operated by Privocean Shipping and owned by Bariba Group of Athens, Greece. Bravo Shipping and Trading, based in St. Vincent and Grenadines, owns the 816-foot Bravo. Crescent Towing in New Orleans operates the 98-foot Texas. Privocean and Bravo are both flagged in Malta.

“The Privocean struck the Bravo on several occasions during this allision, and pushed Bravo into the Ergon dock, causing significant damage to the Bravo, the Ergon dock and the tug Texas,” according to an April 10 lawsuit filed in New Orleans federal district court by Bravo’s owner. “The Bravo sustained substantial hull damage and other physical damage,” the suit said.

Bravo Shipping claims neglect on the part of Privocean and alleges the bulk carrier was unseaworthy. The suit says Privocean’s owner didn’t provide a properly trained crew; the crew didn’t consider the river’s high stage and swift current; the mooring lines weren’t adequate; operators didn’t use enough tugs of sufficient horsepower to secure the vessel; a licensed river pilot wasn’t on Privocean when it was docked in high water with a fast current, and Privocean’s captain and crew failed to properly control the vessel.

Bariba Group in Greece didn’t respond to requests for comment about Privocean

Bravo, carrying oil from Sullom Voe in the United Kingdom, had reached the Ergon dock on April 4 to discharge its cargo. Bravo was offloading crude when the accident occurred. “About 10 barrels of oil spilled from the loading arm into the river,” said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Jonathan Lally in New Orleans. “The oil dissipated so there was no need for cleanup. An oil spill removal organization, or OSRO, response was staged up and down the river the next day since more oil could have spilled from the Ergon pipeline. But none did.”
In an April 10 statement, Ergon Inc. said part of its dock was destroyed. No Ergon staffers were injured. Belle Chasse, La.-based OMI Environmental Solutions laid protective boom around the dock, and that company — along with the Coast Guard — assessed the area. Ergon conducted a marine survey of its damage.

Three other Crescent Towing vessels were on the scene when Privocean neared the Ergon dock, and two of them sustained damage. Four Crescent crewmembers were taken to a hospital for evaluation. Crescent Towing is an intervenor plaintiff in Bravo Shipping’s lawsuit. In addition, Crescent and Ergon have each filed their own suits against Privocean. “Crescent Towing mitigated the effect of Privocean’s collision with Bravo,” said Crescent Towing’s attorney, David Flotte of Preis PLC in New Orleans, in late May.

In an April 10 statement, Crescent said its employees displayed “extreme heroism” in the incident, and credited them with saving lives and preventing additional property losses. But Flotte said he couldn’t discuss specific actions by the crew while investigations by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board were open. 

On April 9, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey in New Orleans approved an arrest warrant requested by Ergon. In lawsuits involving collisions, a vessel’s arrest is a procedure that helps the court obtain sureties before a boat exits the United States. On April 10, U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon in New Orleans told the U.S. Marshal’s Service to arrest Privocean and directed the carrier to stay within the Eastern District of Louisiana’s federal court territory.

By Professional Mariner Staff