The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating an incident involving a loaded grain barge that was found floating unlit and unmanned in the Columbia River late Friday night.
At approximately 10 p.m., watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River in Warrenton, Ore., received a call from personnel at the Tidewater Barge facility indicating that one of their loaded grain barges was missing from the Hayden Island staging area between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash.
Crewmembers of the Lori B, a passing tug, came upon the 42-foot wide and 252-foot long barge floating near the navigation channel and towed it to back to the staging area.
Crews from the Lori B and another tug, Outlaw, inspected the other two staging areas and confirmed all other barges remained securely moored.
Upon inspection of the barge’s mooring lines, the Tidewater Barge employee who made the initial report indicated that the mooring cable for the barge was not cut and the ratchets used to hold it in place appeared to have been intentionally loosened.
"Setting adrift a barge on the Columbia River is extraordinarily dangerous, risking significant harm to people, property and the maritime environment,” said Capt. Bruce Jones, commander of Sector Columbia River.
Intentionally causing damage to a vessel or its cargo is a crime, punishable by a fine and imprisonment for up to 20 years.
Anyone with more information about the circumstances behind this incident should contact Sector Columbia River Command Center watchstanders at 503-861-6211.