Coast Guard Reopens Tampa Bay Shipping Channel after Grounded Vessel is Refloated and Towed to Port

A 378-foot Panamanian-flagged freight vessel ran aground about 400 yards east of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, FL at approximately 0500 hours on Wednesday, causing a 7-hour closure of the Tampa Ship Channel. According to a Coast Guard press release, the St. Petersburg Command Center received a call at about 5 a.m. from a Cooperative Vessel Traffic System (CVTS) watchstander, reporting that the “Antilles II” was aground south of the shipping channel.

Two Coast Guard 25-foot response boats and one 41-foot utility boat from Sector St. Petersburg were dispatched to establish a 100-yard safety zone restricting vessel traffic in the main shipping channel of Tampa Bay until the vessel was moored at Port Manatee. A Coast Guard PAO (Public Affairs Officer) in Miami told MarEx on Thursday, “The vessel was towed to Port Manatee, where we are investigating why a main propulsion failure occurred on the vessel.” According to PA1 Tully, the freighter was outbound at the time of the incident.

Because the vessel grounded in an area where the bottom consists primarily of oyster beds and mud, the vessel’s hull sustained no apparent damages and there was no pollution reported. But PA1 Tully also told MarEx that “The vessel has not been cleared to depart, pending resolution of a class violation, which is believed to involve the vessel’s fuel oil purifier, which may be clogged. Also, there could be contaminated fuel onboard. Class will also perform their own underwater survey on the vessel to determine the extent of damage there, if any.” Tully also said that, as of Thursday afternoon, there was no timetable as to when the vessel might be allowed to depart.

According to the Coast Guard press release, the “Antilles II” had a cargo of 10,000-metric-tons of phosphate and 78-metric-tons of fuel and 20-liters of lube oil on board. Coast Guard marine inspectors and investigators are investigating the incident to determine the causes of the grounding. “While not a routine event, the loss of power by vessels is an event we and our partner agencies have planned and trained for,” said Captain Joseph Servideo, commander of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “Today's joint response demonstrates the benefits of that planning and training.”