The US Coast Guard, shortly after 5 pm CDT today, issued the following release:
After evaluations to determine any relevant safety concerns, the Coast Guard is allowing southbound traffic to transit on the Mississippi River with tight restrictions, Tuesday, following the sinking of three barges near Baton Rouge, Friday.
Southbound traffic can only transit during daylight hours with a tow of no more than 20 barges with a minimum of 300 horsepower per barge. Also, all southbound traffic must utilize a towing-assist vessel when transiting through Wilkinson Point with a minimum of 5,000 horsepower. Northbound restrictions remain in place.
The section of river was re-opened after Coast Guard and members of the maritime industry conducted an evaluation through mile markers 228-237, near the highway 190 bridge, to determine how safely a vessel could transit. The evaluation involved two different tows, one with a tow of 15 barges and the second with a tow of 20 barges.
“The additional restrictions in place are to help reduce the risks involved when navigating Wilkinson Point during high water,” said Lt. Cmdr. Quincy Davis, commanding officer of Coast Guard Marine Safety Baton Rouge. “These restrictions will promote safety to mariners, ensure environmental protection and public safety.”
For a picture of the evaluation click the following link.
Salvage operations for the barges are not scheduled to begin until water levels have reached a level that is deemed safe.
At approximately 1:30 p.m., Friday, watchstanders at Vessel Traffic Service New Orleans received a report that a 195-foot vessel, Crimson Gem, was pushing 20 barges of grain when one allided with the Rhodea Dock and three of the Crimson Gem’s barges sank.
There are no reports of pollution or injuries.
The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the incident.
Yesterday the Coast Guard announced that northbound — but not southbound traffic — was allowed to start re-transiting after the barge incident. They said that over two dozen vessels were stymied in the river, waiting to cross.