With Tug Captain Asleep, Barge Damages Several Homes in Gig Harbor

island chief
Image courtesy USCG

Published Mar 16, 2021 6:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday, a barge collided with docks and homes near the fashionable seaside town of Gig Harbor, Washington.

Watchstanders at Sector Puget Sound received notice from the county emergency dispatch service that an unmanned gravel barge, which was under tow by the pusher tug Island Chief, had collided with several privately-owned docks and residences. The moment of impact was captured by a security camera and provided to local TV news.

The investigation's initial findings suggest that the captain of the tug fell asleep while on watch.

The barge was empty at the time of the incident, and it was pulled free by the tug under its own power. Neither the tug nor the barge were seriously damaged, and they returned to Seattle for an investigation and inspection.

No injuries or pollution have been reported. The Coast Guard's investigating officer has classified the allision as a serious marine incident, and the initial damage estimates suggest that the total cost could be greater than $250,000. According to the coast guard, the vessel operator has carried out drug and alcohol testing for all of the personnel directly involved in the incident.

“Incidents such as this are very concerning,” said Cmdr. Nathan Menefee, Chief of Prevention at Sector Puget Sound. “Fortunately, nobody was injured, and the towing vessel did not release fuel or oil into the water. Sector Puget Sound will investigate the incident to determine the cause and whether additional actions are necessary to prevent a similar incident in the future.” 

Island Chief is a 1963-built pusher tug operated by a Seattle-based company.