MAYPORT, Fla. – The U.S. Coast Guard said private tug boats have stabilized a 418-foot barge carrying a load of ash in the ocean just off the coast of Hanna Park.
The original report said the barge was hung up on rocks near the jetties late Monday during high winds and heavy seas, but Sky 4 over the barge at high tide late Tuesday morning did not show any visible rocks nearby.
Coast Guard crews put the barge in “a more favorable position” Tuesday night and anchored it.
Wednesday morning, the Coast Guard said the barge was stable about 1 mile south of the entrance to the St. Johns River, adding there are no impacts on the environment and a 500-yard safety zone is enforced around the barge.
Tug boats are monitoring the barge and holding it in place. It is rocking in the offshore swells, but not drifting.
The Jacksonville Port Authority said the barge was coming to a private business in Jacksonville, not JaxPort. Marine traffic and in and out of the river has been routine since sunrise Tuesday.
The Coast Guard did not specify what kind of ash was being hauled but said nothing has spilled from the barge.
#USCG Sector #Jacksonville is responding to an incident involving the barge Bridgeport, 1 mile south of the St. John's River entrance. A safety zone is in place and all mariners are urged to remain clear of operations. There is currently no discharge. #HappeningNow pic.twitter.com/YFW0vQD4L6— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) March 23, 2021
According to MarineTraffic.com, the barge is owned by Moran Dry Bulk Carriers of Connecticut. It was built in 1986 and can carry a maximum of 12,000 tons of cargo. The site provides no details on the barge’s cargo.
A CBS News investigation in February 2020 found that private companies haul ash from coal-fired plants in places such as Puerto Rico to Jacksonville, where it’s then transferred to landfills.
“This is no laughing matter,” said Tyler Barrus, a captain and safety instructor for Freedom Boat Club. “This is a huge vessel, thousands of tons of weight on there. The problem for everybody is depending on what’s on board there.”
Barrus said he didn’t want to speculate on what might’ve caused the barge to get stranded, but he said weather could have been a factor.
“After that happens, you have essentially a big, giant, heavy floating sail,” he said. “And the weather is going to do what it is going to do to it.”
News4Jax is attempting to learn more about why the barge is not moving. We have reached out to Moran for comment.