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Grounded towing vessel holding up hundreds of ships near Berwick, Louisiana

Christian Fernsby |
The Coast Guard continues to monitor salvage operations Thursday involving the rock barge, ACL 01700, which sank after a grounding on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Mile Marker 99 in Berwick, Louisiana.


Recovery of the vessel involves removing over 1,600 tons of the aggregate rock cargo, followed by the heavily damaged steel barge, while working in a challenging waterway location. Salvage efforts are continuing through day and night operations.

“Our top priority is to reopen this critical waterway as quickly and safely as possible,” said Cmdr. Heather Mattern, commanding officer, Marine Safety Unit Morgan City.

The queue of vessels awaiting transit as of 1:30 p.m., Thursday included more than 190 towing vessels and 560 barges. Salvagers removed more than 80 percent of the aggregate rock cargo by Thursday morning.

“The location of the wreck is in a particularly critical point along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, as it is adjacent to the intersection with the Atchafalaya River, a meeting point for two major shipping channels, along which most of the gulf’s maritime commerce transits,” said Lt. Cmdr. Zach Robertson, prevention department head at Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City. “This area is unusually challenging to navigate this time of year due to seasonal high water levels and rapidly changing currents.”

The weekend weather forecast calls for conditions favorable for salvage operations to continue uninterrupted. Based off current traffic forecasts and queue estimates, the Coast Guard expects it will take an additional three to four days after the waterway is reopened to move these vessels through the waterway and get back to normal operations.

The towing vessel company hired a salvage company to assist in salvaging the barge and clearing the waterway obstruction as quickly as possible. Members from Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City and Marine Safety Center’s Salvage Engineering Response Team have been providing technical support for the recovery effort.

The Coast Guard Houma captain of the port secured all tow traffic in the location of the barge.

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