MAYPORT, Fla. – The U.S. Coast Guard said divers found damage to the massive barge that has been stranded about one mile south of the mouth of the St. Johns River for more than a week.
Responding tug boats stabilized the 418-foot barge carrying a load of ash in the ocean just off the coast of Hanna Park, anchoring it in a “more favorable position.” and anchored it. Marine traffic and in and out of the river has been routine since the morning after the barge was first reported as stranded. A safety zone around the barge has increased to 500 yards.
The Coast Guard said the bard is in about 30 feet of water.
The Jacksonville Port Authority said the barge was coming to a private business in Jacksonville, not JaxPort.
The Coast Guard did not specify what kind of ash was being hauled but said nothing has spilled from the barge.
Salvage operations were expected to begin on Monday, but the observed damage will case the plans to be revised, “pushing operations into the future.”
Update #4: The barge #Bridgeport remains 1 mile south of St. John’s River in approximately 30’ of water.— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) March 30, 2021
Divers observed damage causing the salvage plan to be revised, pushing operations in to the future. The 500 yard safety zone remains w/ no reported impacts to the environment pic.twitter.com/w3vrCKL74c
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 said last week. “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.”