Salvage crew: 14K tons of product onboard barge remain intact

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The barge that’s been stranded in the ocean off the coast of Hannah Park since March 22 is damaged and taking on water.

But the 14,000 tons of product onboard still remain intact, according to salvage crews.

Andy Legge, spokesperson for Dann Ocean Towing Company -- the company that’s working to remove the barge -- explains that the barge is like one shoebox inside of another shoebox. Using that analogy, he says the outside box has a hole in it from the initial impact of the barge slamming into the rocks, but the box on the inside of the barge is dry and unharmed.

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The News4Jax I-Team also learned the barge is grounded in soft sand offshore, where cranes will soon work to start offloading it.

The stranded barge started taking on water after running into the rocks in bad weather, according to Legge. He said the barge that left Puerto Rico was in route to Keystone Terminals in Tallyrand and carrying 14,000 tons of a product called Agremax, a byproduct of coal ash.

″My understanding of Agremax is as long as it remains non friable in its solid state, it doesn’t present any health matters,” explained Rod Sullivan, a maritime attorney. “The problem is if it gets pulverized, it gets into the air or groundwater, it can be hazardous.”

Sullivan explained that the barge is being held in place by steel shafts, which are essentially rods pinning the 400-foot barge to the ocean floor.

Legge, who’s overseeing the removal of the barge, said cranes will be offloading the product sometime next week, which will lighten the load.

“They are going to use a grab discharge to take the Agremax off the hull and put it in another vessel, and once they get enough off it will float free, and they can return it back to where it was going,” Sullivan said.

The I-Team has learned the Agremax product that was headed to the Keystone Terminals was going to be trucked to Folkston, Georgia, to be used as a cap to a landfill. Even if high seas return offshore as they did over the weekend, Sullivan still thinks that the coal ash byproduct onboard won’t spill into the ocean.

“The simple fact that the outer hull is taking on water does not render the inner hull at all suspect,” Sullivan said. “The only time you’ll rupture both hulls if you have a ship that plows into the side of the barge, then it can puncture the inner hold. But it’s unlikely in that situation to happen.”

Removal of the barge likely won’t take place until sometime next week.

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