Salvors Work to Remove Barge Blocking Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

Image courtesy USCG

Published Feb 7, 2020 1:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

Salvage operations are under way for the rock barge ACL 01700, which sank and split in half after running aground on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Berwick, Louisiana on Monday. 

“The location of the wreck is in a particularly critical point . . . as it is adjacent to the intersection with the Atchafalaya River, a meeting point for two major shipping channels,” said Lt. Cmdr. Zach Robertson, prevention department head at Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City. “This area is unusually challenging to navigate this time of year due to seasonal high water levels and rapidly changing currents.”

Recovery of the vessel involves removing over 1,600 tons of aggregate rock cargo, followed by the heavily damaged steel barge. Working around the clock, salvors had removed over 80 percent of the aggregate rock cargo by Thursday morning, and the weekend weather forecast calls for conditions favorable for salvage operations to continue uninterrupted. 

“Our top priority is to reopen this critical waterway as quickly and safely as possible,” said Cmdr. Heather Mattern, commanding officer, Marine Safety Unit Morgan City.

The Coast Guard Houma captain of the port has secured all tow traffic in the location of the barge. The queue of vessels awaiting transit as of Thursday afternoon included more than 190 towing vessels and 560 barges; based on current traffic forecasts and queue estimates, the Coast Guard expects it will take an additional three to four days after the waterway is reopened to clear the backlog of vessels and return to normal operations.

Members from Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City and Marine Safety Center’s Salvage Engineering Response Team have been providing technical support to the commercial salvor for the recovery effort.