Jacksonville port reopens after accident

Jacksonville port reopens after accident

The Coast Guard closed the Port of Jacksonville to commercial vessel traffic for about 12 hours on Friday after a 60-foot dredge capsized near Blount Island and spilled about 600 feet of dredge pipe into the St. Johns River.

The incident happened about 12:20 a.m. and the barge partially blocked the St. Johns channel. Traffic resumed operating about noon, the Coast Guard said.

"We had a pretty significant kind of safety issue going on," The Florida Times-quoted Lt. Cmdr. Doug Campbell, the Coast Guard's chief of operations, as saying.

Campbell said he expects the barge owners, Carter Dredging, to salvage the vessel by Saturday.

A tugboat first discovered the barge early in the morning as it drifted away from its Blount Island work site.

The tugboat subsequently hit a dredge pipe breaking it into two sections between Blount Island and the Intracoastal Waterway. The Coast Guard asked pleasure craft to stay out of the area until the dredge pipe could be recovered.

One of the sections of pipe hit a buoy and moved it out of position.

Robert Peek, a Jacksonville Port Authority spokesman, told the Times-Union that one cargo ship entering the port had been delayed by the closing of the river. Only two or three ships were scheduled to enter the authority's terminals on Friday, he said.

"Fortunately, today's a pretty slow day," Peek said.

Crowley Liner Services, which operates its own terminal on the river, reported no delays. Mark Miller, a Crowley spokesman, told the Times-Union that the company scheduled an outbound barge and an inbound vessel late Friday but didn't anticipate any problems.

A commercial vessel was already under way when the Coast Guard closed the port, but it departed the port without incident, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard said it will conduct a survey of the river with the St. Johns Bar Pilots to determine what needed to be done to open the port to commercial traffic.