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Mate at helm sleeping when tow struck riverside restaurant
The mate helming a towboat pushing 15 barges up the Ohio River was asleep when the tow struck a marina and restaurant last fall, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which is taking action against his license.

The service declined to identify the mariner or his position on the towboat Dale Artigue. Barges pushed by the 4,900-hp vessel struck portions of the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club at about 0600 on Oct. 2, destroying the business.

“The causal factors included the mate on watch falling asleep while at the controls, thereby failing to maintain a proper watch as the vessel was underway upbound on the Ohio River at mile marker 474,” said Coast Guard Lt. James Brendel. “There were two deck hands on watch at the time of the incident. However, neither deck hand was assigned navigation watch duties.”

The Coast Guard has launched an administrative enforcement action against the mate’s merchant mariner credential. The mariner retained his credential as of mid-January, but Brendel said enforcement action that could include license suspension or revocation was pending.

Florida Marine Transporters of Mandeville, La., operates Dale Artigue. The company said in the fall that it had launched an investigation into the incident. A spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the Coast Guard findings.

Impaired captain loses license after grounding
A tugboat captain lost his license for at least a year after the Coast Guard determined he was operating under the influence of alcohol when his vessel ran aground in mid-November.

The captain, who was not identified, was helming Nikki Jo C. as it pushed the loaded grain barge NF-108 on the Rappahannock River on Nov. 14. The tug grounded at about 0630 near Tappahannock, Va., northeast of Richmond.

“The master allegedly fell asleep at the helm, and the vessel maneuvered outside of the channel … on the east side of the river,” Coast Guard spokesman Stephen Lehmann said, adding that authorities later determined “that the master was operating the vessel while under the influence of alcohol.”

Lehmann said the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office administered the alcohol breath test. The federal limit in such a circumstance is a blood-alcohol level (BAC) of 0.04 percent. The Coast Guard would not disclose the BAC level, although Lehmann said it exceeded the federal limit.

The mariner was removed from the vessel following the incident. A second tugboat responded, and it was able to help Nikki Jo C. and its barge. Additional voyage details, including the tow’s origin and destination, were not available.

The mariner’s credential has been suspended for a year, followed by a six-month probationary period under terms of a settlement with the Coast Guard. His credential could be revoked permanently if he fails to satisfy terms of the agreement.

Steve G. lists during an incident involving strong current on the Ohio River near West Franklin, Ind., on Jan. 12. The crew’s actions and the towboat’s watertight integrity prevented it from capsizing or sinking, according to the Coast Guard.

U.S. Coast Guard photo

Ohio River towboat incident spurs high-water warning
The Coast Guard is reminding mariners of best practices and urging vigilance as the 2020 high-water season begins on some inland waterways.

The service issued the warning in mid-January after an incident involving the towboat Steve G. on the Ohio River near West Franklin, Ind. The Coast Guard said the vessel was assisting a grounded barge on Jan. 12 when its bow rode up on the barge, partially submerging the towboat’s stern.

“The strong river current then caused a severe list, but the vessel’s watertight integrity prevented it from capsizing or sinking,” the Coast Guard said. “The crew’s proactive actions to keep the watertight doors closed and to maintain the watertight envelope of the hull potentially saved their lives and saved the vessel.”

The 2019 high-water season was unprecedented in its length, and there were intermittent river closures due to flooding and strong currents. There were also high-profile maritime casualties that resulted in injuries and fatalities.

As the 2020 high-water season began, the Coast Guard warned there is an “elevated threat” of flooding due to rainfall levels in parts of the upper Midwest up to 200 percent higher than usual. In these circumstances, even normal precipitation levels can cause flooding. As of mid-January, many rivers were already running high.

Crews transiting these waters can take steps to protect their vessels and themselves, according to Capt. Tracy Phillips, chief of prevention in the Coast Guard’s 8th District.

“When crews are actively following a safety management system, and commercial vessels are in compliance with marine safety regulations, the risks to the vessel are drastically reduced and the crew is better prepared to respond if an emergency does occur,” Phillips said.

Categories: Casualty News, Publication > Professional Mariner