U.S. Coast Guard Investigates Collision on Mississippi River

On Monday, approximately two miles of the Mississippi River were closed by the U.S. Coast Guard in the wake of a collision between a deep draft chemical carrier and a 16-barge tow. The incident occurred while the two units were crossing near Geismer, LA. Coast Guard investigators from Marine Safety Unit Baton Rouge responded to the event.

The collision between the 1997-built, 38,542 DWT Stolt Creativity and the towboat Norb Whitlock resulted in one of the Whitlock's 16 barges, which was loaded with salt, sinking approximately 700 feet from the right descending bank. The river was initially closed for a two-mile stretch between mile markers 182 and 184, and remained closed until the Coast Guard was able to determine the location of the salt barge and ensure that navigation through the area was safe.

Both vessels were traveling up river at the time of the collision, which occurred just after 1300 hours on Monday. No pollution or injuries were reported. On Wednesday morning, a U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman told MarEx that a modified safety zone at miles 181-183 had been established for passing traffic at about 1700 hours of April 24. The area is now open to traffic drafting greater than 30 feet only during daylight hours and with one-way restrictions in place. Vessels with deep drafts of less than 30 feet can now transit the area without restriction, except when meeting a deep draft vessel passing in the opposite direction. One-way traffic is being coordinated through VTC New Orleans on channel 63A.

According to Coast Guard sources, the sunken barge is located approximately 700 feet off the bank with about 48 feet of water over it at its shallowest point. It has been marked by a buoy. The extent of any damage to the larger vessel was unavailable as MarEx went online with this edition. Coast Guard sources also told MarEx that there had been no deep draft traffic and only one or two tow strings delayed by the incident.

As of this morning, Coast Guard spokespersons confirmed that the daylight only/one-way traffic restrictions (> 30ft draft) remain in affect for deep draft traffic. Salvage cranes are on the way and expected to be on scene by the end of today. It is planned that divers will be deployed and an assessment of how much cargo remains on board will be carried out. It is expected that salvage will commence this weekend. No vessels are holding in a queue or being delayed at this time. Coast Guard personnel are continuing to investigate the cause of the accident.