Towboat Sustains Hull Damage in Grounding on Okeechobee Waterway

The Catherine at the site of the grounding (USCG)

Published Jun 6, 2022 5:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard is working with a marine salvage company to respond to a barge grounding near Clewiston, Florida. 

At 2030 hours on Friday, the captain of the small towboat Catherine called Coast Guard Sector Miami to report that his vessel and barge tow had gone aground. The Catherine was transiting the Okeechobee Waterway near Clewiston when it struck bottom, resulting in a hull breach and a ruptured fuel tank. 

The Catherine had an estimated 2,000 gallons of fuel on board at the time of the casualty. A salvage crew with Mobro Marine arrived on scene at about 0230 hours on Saturday morning and deployed containment boom around the towboat as a precautionary measure. The responders found that the vessel was not spilling any fuel, and the engine compartment had sustained minor flooding, not even enough to set off the bilge alarms. 

However, the Catherine had indeed sustained damage. The salvor's dive team inspected the hull at about 1300 hours Saturday and found an eight-inch crack at the point of impact, with potential fuel discharge. They completed temporary repairs to seal up the damage by 1600 hours. A waste management crew arrived and removed all the diesel fuel from the compromised fuel tanks about two hours later.

“Marine Safety Detachment Lake Worth worked in close coordination with industry partners to ensure the environmental impact of pollution was minimized and responsibly cleaned up,” said Lt. Andrew Cole, Coast Guard MSD Lake Worth supervisor. “It is imperative that mariners maintain vigilance while navigating and fully understand the potential hazards on the waterways.”

The cause of the grounding is under investigation.