Towboat Sinks at its Berth on Tennessee River

Michael R.
Courtesy USCG

Published Jul 17, 2023 9:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard is responding to a spill of diesel from an older towboat that sank at the pier at Florence, Alabama over the weekend. 

At about 1400 hours on Sunday, fleeting and towing operator RMB Marine Services reported that the towboat Michael R. had partially sunk at its berth at the Port of Florence, located on the Tennessee River. A boom was deployed around the vessel to contain the spill, and a team of Coast Guard pollution responders have been deployed from Nashville to assess the extent. 

About 200 feet of hard boom contained most of the fuel, and it is being recovered with a vacuum truck and drum skimmer. The maximum potential for the spill is 2,500 gallons of diesel, according to the Coast Guard.

RMB Marine Services has contracted with the oil spill response provider E3 Solutions to conduct the cleanup. An extra 350 feet of boom was installed around the tug on Monday as a secondary barrier.

No injuries or wildlife impacts have been reported, and the Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the incident.

The Michael R. has a long history on the inland waterways. According to towboat photographer and record-keeper Richard Dunbar, the boat was built in 1976 by Louisiana-based Scully Bros. Boat Building and later sold to Muscle Shoals Marine Service, located in Florence, Alabama. Muscle Shoals was acquired by a new owner in 2018 and renamed RMB.