Barge Strikes Bridge in ‘One of the Two Most Difficult Turns in the Mississippi River’

Barge Strikes Bridge in ‘One of the Two Most Difficult Turns in the Mississippi River’

The Associated Press reported that a tug was pushing two barges in a dangerous stretch of the Mississippi River on January 27 when one of the barges carrying 80,000 gallons of oil struck a railroad bridge and began leaking. The collision occurred at about 1:30 a.m., and both barges were damaged although only one leaked. According to the AP, the barge accident forced the closure of a 16-mile stretch of the river near Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that the tugboat failed to make a dangerous turn south of Vicksburg where the Yazoo River empties into the Mississippi. Kavanaugh Breazeale, a spokesman for the US Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, told the Monitor that the location of the accident represents “one of the two most difficult turns in the Mississippi River.” Operators have to make a hard right when moving downstream, exposing them to currents from the Yazoo. Additionally, there are also underwater pylons supporting two bridges that are separated by less than a tenth of a mile.

Marty Lipinski, director emeritus of the Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute at the University of Memphis, told the Monitor that changes in elevation, cross currents from intersecting waterways and the increasing number of barges in a single tow—which can extend to as many as 40—often make navigating the Mississippi treacherous. “These are enormous structures moving down the river,” Lipinski said. “These pilots are highly skilled people who sometimes have to put a thread through the needle to maintain navigation of these large tows within the channels.”

The incredible skill required of workers on these vessels also makes it critical for owners and employers to make sure the vessels are seaworthy.  In this case, it was very fortunate that damage was done to only one tug and that hopefully, leakage was contained.

Latti & Anderson LLP – Jones Act attorneys

Latti & Anderson’s Little Extra: The American Waterways Operators says over 800 million tons of raw materials and finished goods are transported by more than 28,000 barges every year.