U.S. Navy-Chartered Ordnance Barge Runs Aground on Florida Beach
On Thursday, a tug and barge chartered to the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command ran aground off Florida during a voyage to the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center in the Bahamas. The barge is laden with ordnance, fuel and other supplies for Navy operations, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The crew of the tug Sea Eagle sent out a mayday call on Thursday at about 2045 hours, and they reported that they were in distress and taking on water.
The Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection dispatched response boats to the tug's position, located about three miles east of Hillsboro Beach in Fort Lauderdale. CBP rescue crews arrived on scene and picked up three people from the barge. Station Fort Lauderdale’s crew rescued the Sea Eagle's captain, who had stayed behind with the tug. The four crewmembers were reunited on Station Fort Lauderdale's vessel and delivered safely to shore. There were no reported injuries.
A video provided by the Coast Guard shows that the tug and barge have washed up within yards of the beach (click on image to view video below). The barge is in the surf zone and can be seen moving in the breaking waves.
The tug is reported to have about 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board. It is operated by Northcliffe Ocean Shipping & Trading, which is currently working with a salvage company to safely remove the tug and barge and tow them to a nearby port.
Given the sensitive nature of the cargo, a 1,000-yard security zone is in effect around the site. Local sheriffs' deputies are controlling shoreside beach access for the area adjacent to the grounding.
The barge and tug boat were chartered by the U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command for a routine supply mission to the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center in the Bahamas. The barge was carrying ordnance, fuel and other supplies. The U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Six (EODMU 6) has been tasked with clearing the barge of any munitions or ordnance on board. The Coast Guard reports that there is no danger to nearby residents, but asks all civilians and mariners to stay clear of the area.
The cause of the grounding is under investigation.