The barge industry is taking new safety measures to deal with “unprecedented” flooding on the Mississippi River, working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers.
Barge operators will use assist tugboats to help navigate challenging areas, follow newly designated channels in certain areas of the river and reduce the number of barges in each tow to no more than 20.
The industry will work with local officials to keep barges and towboats away from vulnerable levees, the American Waterways Operators said Friday, as Mississippi floodwaters continued to roll south.
Tows will proceed in a single file through certain river channels.
The springtime floods of 2011 have seen some of the highest water in history on the Mississippi River and other parts of the inland navigation system. At times they have shut down rail and barge lanes, slowed or halted factory operations and cut into grain ship loadings and chemical barge operations in the Gulf of Mexico region.
“The unprecedented Mississippi River flooding has prompted a heightened sense of responsibility among towing companies and vessel operators to take extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of vessel crews, the public, the environment and property,” said Thomas Allegretti, the AWO’s president and CEO. “AWO members will continue to operate under these enhanced practices for as long as river conditions require this additional safety margin,” Allegretti said.