Casualty briefs

Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
Barges stack up at the Emsworth Lock and Dam near Pittsburgh, Pa., on Jan. 16 after breaking away from the Jack’s Run fleeting area on the Ohio River. Seven barges went over the dam.

Sixty-one barges break free in ice-clogged Ohio River
Ice and high water in the Ohio River caused 61 barges to break away in separate incidents in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Both incidents occurred on the morning of Jan. 13 roughly an hour apart. By Jan. 19, all but two barges were accounted for, and several had sunk. The river was closed for miles around both accident sites due to concern about obstructions in the channel.

“The last barge breakaway of this magnitude in the Pittsburgh area was caused by high water in 1985,” said Leon McClain Jr., captain of the Port of Pittsburgh.

Twenty-seven barges broke free from the Jack’s Run fleeting area at Ohio River mile marker 4, near downtown Pittsburgh. The Coast Guard said seven barges went over the nearby Emsworth Lock and Dam, and others were pinned against the structure.

“These things are built to last and take impacts like this,” said Jeff Hawk, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who added that the dam gates were up when the strikes occurred. “There was no damage to the gates (and) we don’t believe at this time there was any structural damage.”

As of Jan. 18, authorities had accounted for 25 barges. Two were still missing and believed to be upstream of the dam, the Coast Guard said. Authorities closed the river between mile marker 2 and 20 amid concern about potential hazards in the channel.

The Army Corps used side-scan sonar in the area to search for sunken barges, and oversaw icebreaking efforts around the dam to allow salvage crews to remove barges pushed against it.

Hawk estimated about 15 barges were pressed against the dam, some of which had sunk.

Thirty-four barges broke away from fleeting areas at mile marker 94 near Moundsville, W.Va., southwest of Pittsburgh. As of Jan. 19, all 34 barges were accounted for, McClain said, but two remained within the channel. The waterway was closed from mile marker 94 to 110.

The Army Corps also employed side-scan sonar in the river around Moundsville to search for underwater obstructions. The results were inconclusive and a second survey was planned.

“We are continuously monitoring the position of the barges in these areas and we are working with our partners to remove them from the river to reopen the waterway and resume commerce in this area,” McClain said.

According to the Coast Guard, the breakaways did not result in any pollution.

NYC Ferry runs aground on sandbar at rush hour
A New York City ferry en route to Lower Manhattan ran aground near Rockaway Inlet, N.Y., during the rush-hour commute.

Twenty-seven passengers and crew were aboard the 80-foot Flyer when it grounded on a sandbar at about 1730 on Dec. 27. The incident occurred roughly 15 minutes after Flyer departed the Rockaway terminal for Wall Street’s Pier 11, the Coast Guard said.

Hornblower, which operates the NYC Ferry system, suggested the ferry deviated from its normal course before grounding.

“While preliminary information indicates the vessel was off route, that’s something investigators will look at,” Hornblower Senior Vice President Cameron Clark said in a prepared statement. “Safety is our No. 1 priority, and we will continue to review our training programs in order to ensure rider and crew safety.”

The New York Fire Department disembarked 23 passengers and one crewmember from the ferry after several hours aground. Shallow water around the vessel hampered the effort, the Coast Guard said.

No injuries or pollution were reported in the incident. It wasn’t clear if Flyer sustained any damage.

Passengers aboard the ferry when it grounded received a one-year NYC Ferry pass, among other perks. Fans riding the ferry to a New York Rangers hockey game were reimbursed for their tickets.

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident and has not determined the cause. The New York City Economic Development Corp., which oversees the ferry service, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Flyer incident occurred exactly one month after another NYC Ferry vessel, Zelinsky, grounded after departing Pier 11 for Rockaway, Queens. The ferry’s hull breached but none of the 113 passengers or crew were injured. The cause remains under investigation.

Barges break away on ICW after tow strikes barrier
Six barges broke free after a lead barge in a tow struck a concrete barrier in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) near Houma, La.

The incident occurred at about 2010 on Dec. 12 near mile marker 57.5 on the ICW. The lead starboard barge pushed by the 2,000-hp towboat Native Dancer made contact with the wall, the Coast Guard said.

At least three of the barges were recovered soon after the breakaway. There were no reports of pollution or injuries, according to the Coast Guard. Authorities temporarily closed the waterway during the barge recovery.

Native Dancer is more than 40 years old. It underwent a major refurbishment in 2015, according to operator Turn Services. The New Orleans-based company operates fleeting areas on the Lower Mississippi River and ICW between Baton Rouge and Myrtle Grove, according to its website.

Turn Services did not respond to a request for comment on the incident. The Coast Guard is investigating the accident and did not release the probable cause.

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