Coast Guard reopens Intracoastal Waterway

Earlier salvage operations involving the rock barge ACL 01700 which sank after a grounding on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Mile Marker 99 in Berwick. (Courtesy Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexandria Preston)

The U.S. Coast Guard reopened the Intracoastal Waterway near Berwick last week to vessel traffic after salvage operations were completed on a sunken rock barge.

“Industry has been coming to us throughout the week offering ways we can work together and assist our teams in clearing up what has become a heavily backlogged waterway,” Commander Heather Mattern, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City, said in a statement. “Our priority now is to restore normal vessel traffic flow to the critical waterway safely and efficiently.”

Working in conjunction with senior industry partners and members of the area Marine Transportation System Recovery and Safety Committee, a Marine Transportation System recovery plan was developed to quickly restore the waterway to normal operation and clear the backlog of commercial traffic.

With the assistance of local towing vessel companies and through coordinated control of vessel movement by Vessel Traffic Service Berwick Bay, the Coast Guard estimates it will be able to restore the waterway to normal traffic within the week.

As on Friday afternoon, vessel in line included 26 tugs and 54 barges southbound, 107 tugs and 296 barges westbound, 87 tugs and 262 barges eastbound, and 4 tugs and 16 barges northbound.

The ACL 01700 sank Feb. 3 after a grounding on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Mile Marker 99 in Berwick.

The barge was one of six being pushed by the towing vessel Miss Odessa which grounded and then tore the barge apart as it attempted to break free.

The Coast Guard says that recovery of the sunken barge involved removing over 1,600 tons of the aggregate rock cargo, followed by the heavily damaged steel barge itself, while working in a challenging waterway location.

“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,” Lt. Cmdr. Zach Robertson, prevention department head at Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City, said at the time. “This area is unusually challenging to navigate this time of year due to seasonal high water levels and rapidly changing currents.”

Read the Coast Guard announcement.