The 420,000-gallon oil spill polluting 98 miles of the Mississippi River happened early Wednesday when a 61-foot barge carrying the fuel collided with a tanker, just north of the massive bridges connecting downtown New Orleans to communities across the river.
Operations to salvage the barge, which is owned by American Commercial Lines Inc., were to begin Thursday, said Petty Officer Jaclyn Young. She said the barge was no longer leaking oil.
Containment booms were installed Wednesday to prevent the oil from spreading to environmentally sensitive areas and seeping into water-supply intake valves in Gretna, St. Bernard, Dalcour, Belle Chasse, Pointe a la Hache, Port Sulphur and Boothville-Venice, Young said.
The tug Mel Oliver, which had been hired to push the barge upriver, had no properly licensed crew on board the vessel, Young said. The tugboat pilot had only an apprentice mate’s license instead of the required master’s license, she added.
We are still in the process of sorting out information regarding the cause of the incident but are familiar with the state of American Commercial Lines in light of their recent financial difficulties. In our close working relationship with Northeast Maritime Institute we have learned that ACL had abruptly ended a contract established to train ACL’s mariners. This training was developed to provide unlicensed crew members training as captains and helped them get both the skills need to navigate inland rivers. Specific to collision avoidance the Institute used hands on training from licensed instructors as well as advanced ship simulators that allow mariners to simulate transits on the Mississippi.
gCaptain is also investigating a death that occurred recently when a captain fell overboard. Initial reports question the role vessel maintenance played in the incident.
Stay tuned HERE for continued coverage.
We have been informed that the tugboat pushing an American Commercial Lines barge was owned and operated by a 3rd party vendor, not ACL. With further research gCaptain has also learned that ACL had identified the need to vet the level of training provided to mariners by vendor companies. According to a Northeast Maritime Institute representative they had made significant progress in the development of this program when ACL walked away from the training contract with NMI in June of this year.