Two accidents involving tugs in the Americas highlight the importance of identifying risks to inland waterway navigation.
Undetected and submerged navigation hazards caused a towing vessel in Louisiana, US to sink and damage to a tugboat in Brazil over the last two weeks.
Tugboat Dejeanne Maria, operated by Denet Towing Services, was towing two empty dry cargo barges along the Mississippi River near Venice when it struck a submerged object and sank.
Around 7,000 gallons were on board the 17-m lugger tug, of which 60 gallons spilled into the river. According to US Coast Guard, three crew members were transferred to the towing vessel Supporter 1 after the incident.
Another towing tug was sent to the accident scene to retrieve the barges. But 670-kW Dejeanne Maria was blocking the channel in Pass a Loutre as it was submerged with its port side above the water.
The New Orleans’ sector of the coast guard was mobilised to respond to the emergency and conduct a shoreline assessment. It deployed a boom around the sunken tug to prevent further environmental damage and used an ES&H airborne drone to detect further oil discharges.
There is little detail into the cause of the accident except the towing tug struck a submerged object. An echosounder may have detected this hazard if the tug master had access to this technology.
Earlier in April a pusher tug in Brazil collided with a bridge. Vo Maria sustained damage and broke the road bridge in the accident on the Moju River in Para State. The bridge collapsed with two road vehicles on it at the time. According to FleetMon, the five crew members on Vo Maria were not hurt in the incident.
It is not known why Vo Maria struck the bridge, or whether its master detected it early enough to react. However, river radar would highlight the bridge as a navigation risk.
Both incidents highlight the importance of installing wheelhouse technology for detecting navigation hazards and tracking them during tug operations. Radar and sonar technology are improving and artificial intelligence-based smart navigation systems are being developed for maritime and inland waterway operations.