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NTSB cites late turn in high water for $3.3 million allision

Feb 4, 2020 04:11 PM

The lead barge in Bettye M. Jenkins' tow struck a grain terminal near Vidalia, La.

The damaged Bunge grain conveyor and barge T9353 four days after the incident.

NTSB photo

The damaged Bunge grain conveyor and barge T9353 four days after the incident.

The following is a marine accident brief from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):

(WASHINGTON) — On Feb. 15, 2019, about 0130 local time, the towboat Bettye M. Jenkins was pushing two loaded barges upbound on the Lower Mississippi River, 1.4 miles south of Vidalia, La. While maneuvering across the river about two miles downriver of the Natchez Bridge, the lead barge, T9353, struck the Bunge grain facility pier and pilings. No pollution or injuries were reported. Damage to the facility was estimated at $3,336,718.

Probable cause

‚ÄčThe National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the contact of the Bettye M. Jenkins tow with the Bunge grain facility was the captain’s decision to attempt to pass ahead of an upbound tow while crossing a river in strong current during high-water conditions.

Analysis excerpt

While moving upriver, the towboat Clark Todd hugged the right descending bank. The initial plan agreed upon by both vessels was for Bettye M. Jenkins to pass ahead of Clark Todd. However, Bettye M. Jenkins took longer than expected to cross the river since the high current caused the tow to be set further downstream. Bettye M. Jenkins attempted to turn upriver after Clark Todd passed ahead of it, but because they had to wait for Clark Todd to clear ahead of them, they turned later than originally planned. The captain of Bettye M. Jenkins stated that along with the difficulty of turning the tow into the high current, his turn was slowed by Clark Todd’s wheelwash. The late turn left the tow too close to the Bunge facility, which the lead barge contacted, parting the tow’s lines.

Click here to read the complete report.

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