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USCG Investigates Costly Bridge Strike in Morgan City

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The bridge between Morgan City and Amelia, Louisiana was damaged in an allision just before Christmas, forcing its closure (USCG / DVIDS / Cajun Drone Photography, Jim Pierce)

Published Jan 5, 2022 10:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating a barge allision with a bridge near Morgan City, Louisiana, and are treating it as a major marine casualty due to the high cost of the damage. 

On December 23, at about 0330 hours, a towboat was proceeding on the Avoca Island Cutoff waterway when one of the lead barges in its six-barge tow struck the Bayou Ramos Bridge. The bridge is part of Louisiana Highway 182, and it connects the offshore oil and gas industry hub of Morgan City with nearby Amelia, Louisiana.

Several hours after the accident, U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City received notice of the casualty and figured out the identity of the responsible party. The Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (DOTD) closed the bridge shortly afterwards due to the extent of the damage and the risk to drivers. The barge involved in the allision was also damaged, and the total comes to more than $500,000, making the incident a major marine casualty. 

The USCG and the NTSB are working together to determine the circumstances behind the incident. Among other objectives, they intend to investigate whether "acts of misconduct, incompetence, negligence, or violations of federal law were committed." Each agency will issue its own report on the casualty.

The identity of the vessel involved has not been released. 

As of January 5, the bridge remains closed, and there is no timeline yet for its reopening, a spokesperson told local media. The agency is still examining possibilities for repairs. In the interim, all traffic has been diverted to nearby Highway 90. However, the St. Mary Parish Sheriff's Office has reported that some enterprising drivers have attempted to move or drive over the barricades in order to pass over the damaged bridge.