Duck Boat Probe Zeroes In on Barge Operations
The tugboat involved in last week’s fatal duck boat accident on the Delaware River did not have a lookout posted on the barge it was pushing, and a union official says none was required. Meanwhile, the city is trying to figure out what to do with the sludge those barges had been handling.
An official with the maritime union saying the tug had two crew members, a mate and a deckhand. The deckhand, according to the official, was positioned in the tug assisting the mate, and not on the barge serving as a lookout.
US Coast Guard regulations require a “lookout by sight” but do not specify that the lookout be at the front. The official, Steve Oravets with the International Longshoremen’s Association, is quoted saying that on a clear day — such as the day of the accident — a lookout on the barge would not have been necessary.
KYW’s Mike DeNardo spoke with Capt. Joseph Dady, who has been a tugboat captain for 30 years. He’s the president of the National Mariners Association and a member of the US Coast Guard’s Towing Safety Advisory Commission.
Dady says the rules require “a proper lookout by sight,” but that doesn’t absolutely require a person on the barge at all times:
“Not necessarily. It depends on the spectrum of your view — how much you can see around you from the wheelhouse, and how much of a blind spot you have over the bow.”
Dady actually piloted the Caribbean Sea himself years ago, when it had a different name. He says the tug maneuvered well, and it could have steered away within one minute, or stopped altogether in three minutes, if there had been enough warning.
Meantime, KYW’s Mike Dunn reports, Mayor Nutter is grappling with one major impact of the duck boat accident: what do with the sludge that had been — until the mishap — moved by barge down the Delaware River.
The city has been using barges to move sludge from a treatment plant in the Northeast to a newer plant in Southwest Philadelphia run by a private firm.
Mayor Nutter suspended all such sludge shipments by barge immediately after the duck boat accident last week (see related stories). And now, he candidly admits, the sludge is piling up and they need to find a solution:
“We have not made any announcements about any future activity, but it is something of great concern, and it has an immediacy to it. There is material that needs to be moved, and we’re looking into that and trying to deal with complications involved.”
When asked if moving the sludge by truck was possible, the mayor replied simply, “It’s a lot of material.”
The barge that struck the duck boat was on a return trip at the time and was empty of sludge.
Also today, the NTSB announced that as part of its continuing investigation of the collision, it would be conducting, along with US Coast Guard, tests today using a duck boat on the Delaware River near Penn’s landing. The exact time the tests was not announced.