[UPDATED] Close to disaster: A fuel barge carrying 1.7 million gallons of diesel collided with the South Pier last month, damaging its hull; Coast Guard Investigation | Lost Coast Outpost
UPDATE: State Senator Mike McGuire’s office sent the following statement from McGuire on Tuesday evening:
Humboldt Bay has some of the purest bay water in the country and we must do everything in our power to protect it.
Once we were made aware of this deeply concerning incident, we immediately spoke with our partners at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. We know that the Coast Guard performed the initial inspection of the barge and allowed them to proceed to their next destination once the vessel was deemed seaworthy. The Coast Guard also conducted overflights of the area after the collision and observed no splinters. A Coast Guard investigation is ongoing.
State fish and wildlife officials encouraged the responsible party to submit a post-incident report which was completed and delivered the following day.
That said, we will be meeting with State Fish and Wildlife officials and their Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response in the coming days to discuss protocols and how all levels of government can work more closely together. We are grateful to the Fish and Wildlife team for their work and look forward to diving deeper into this troubling incident, which could have been disastrous for the sensitive coastal environment and the aquaculture industry that exploits the waters of the bay.
In an accident that threatened the fragile ecosystem of Humboldt Bay, a fuel barge loaded with 1.68 million gallons of diesel collided with the south pier last month, damaging but not puncturing the outer hull in ship’s steel.
The United States Coast Guard has opened an investigation into the June 20 incident, and Petty Officer Andrew Kistner confirmed that this did not result in a fuel spill.
“That’s fine,” he said, “but the barge has suffered damage and is being repaired.” The Coast Guard investigation will look at “causal factors” including information about the vessel, its crew, weather and other conditions, he said.
According an incident report of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Response and Restoration, the tanker barge Monterey Bay, owned and operated by Oregon-based Sause Bros., was being towed out of the channel by the tug Apache when the aft hull of the barge “contacted the pier of the entrance channel.”
Kistner said this “grounding” occurred at the end of the south pier, with the port Monterey Bay hull connecting to the concrete. dolosse below the waterline, causing a “lesion” in the outermost of the two steel hulls. The Coast Guard quickly had a 47-foot lifeboat on the scene, and the crew was able to confirm the fuel tank had not been punctured, Kistner said.
Leroy Zerlang, chairman of the Humboldt Port Safety Committee, said it was a huge relief.
“There was no spillage, no loss of product – that was the important thing,” he told the Outpost in a telephone interview earlier today. Zerlang used direct language to express the stakes of such an accident: “If something had happened, this bay would have been ruined.”
Jennifer Kalt, executive director of environmental nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper, agreed.
“Fortunately, barges are double-hulled, but that’s another reason to get rid of fossil fuels ASAP – with the planet on fire,” Kalt said. “It’s a huge risk for Humboldt Bay.”
Recall the 5,000 gallon oil spill which temporarily closed Humboldt Bay in 1997, Kalt added that it’s important the community has a good understanding of the plans in place to clean up a spill, should it occur.
The Humboldt Port Safety Commission briefly discussed the accident at its July 21 meeting, but in the month since the grounding, none of the agencies involved made it public or disclosed any details. media information.
Jennifer Savage, a Manila resident and senior director of the Surfrider Foundation’s Plastic Pollution Initiative (Disclosure: a friend of mine), investigated online after learning about the incident from other surfers. She found Brief report from NOAA and published it on his blog.
Reached by phone, Humboldt Bay Harbor District Executive Director Larry Oetker said the crew of the Monterey Bay immediately informed the Coast Guard after the grounding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers barge was nearby, as were a few other ships, and crews aboard searched for leaking fuel in the water, thankfully seeing none, he said. declared.
The tug and barge then “moved a little offshore in calm water” for an at-sea inspection, Oetker said. After determining that there were no leaks, the Apache continued north, towing Monterey Bay to Coos Bay where a full inspection was carried out. Kistner said the barge remains docked in Coos Bay. A message sent to Sause Bros. was not immediately fired.
Oil spill response equipment is maintained and stored at the Port District Shipyard in Fields Landing, and Oetker said all fuel barge companies entering and leaving Humboldt Bay must have contracts with the oil spill response team. Chevron, which owns the fuel terminal behind the Bayshore Mall, helped fund response preparedness efforts through a grant to the Port District that was passed on to Cal Poly Humboldt.
The university and the Port District have monitoring equipment at the Chevron Wharf and several other locations around the bay to check for spills, Oetker said. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife also has a spill response unit, and the Marine Spill Response Society has staff ready. (Reached by phone, an on-site employee said the organization had been contacted about this incident but had not been activated.)
“That’s the goal of the port security committee, to make sure everyone is well prepared and equipped to deal with it,” Oetker said.
Federal regulations for navigation in Humboldt Bay require all vessels carrying liquefied hazardous gases entering or leaving port to be assisted by two assist tugs, which must escort the vessel throughout its transit and “be stationed so as to provide immediate assistance” if the vessel or its tow loses power or control.
Humboldt Bay sees about 32 to 34 fuel barges pass through each year, according to Zerlang. They usually arrive loaded with about three million gallons of fuel to be delivered to the Chevron terminal.
âNinety-five percent of the barges arrive, unload product and leave empty,â he said. When empty, they don’t need an escort barge out, but Zerlang said Monterey Bay left with a “hold” of about 40,000 barrels still on board for a delivery further north.
The crews of the Monterey Bay and the Apache complied with federal regulations requiring this escort, Zerlang said, although he could not say for sure whether all safety protocols were followed. He described the Sause Bros. like a very important and respected west coast tug companyâ and stated that their barges are âstate of the art, all double hulled, fully approved and highly maintainedâ.
Kistner could not provide an estimate of when the investigation might be complete. He gathered information on conditions on the evening of June 20, saying the National Weather Service had reported winds of around 15 knots, swells of four to six feet and a current of 1.5 to 2 knots. More details will not be available until the investigation is complete.