The Coast Guard is responding to reports of multiple containers falling off a barge between Port Canaveral, Fla., and West Palm Beach, Fla.
Smith Maritime's U.S.-flagged, 136'x40’ Capt Latham was en route to Puerto Rico Sunday towing the 340’ barge Columbia Elizabeth when crewmembers aboard the tug noticed several cargo containers hanging over the port side of the barge. They believed more had fallen into the water while in transit.
The Capt Latham diverted to the Port of Palm Beach for further investigation, and a Coast Guard MH-65 helicopter crew from Air Station Miami and a crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Margaret Norvell responded to the report to assess the barge.
Nine containers are confirmed to have fallen overboard so far. The Coast Guard continues to issue hourly safety marine information broadcasts along the Florida Atlantic coastline, advising boaters to maintain a lookout for containers that may be adrift at sea.
One of the missing containers is known to contain wet cell batteries, the Coast Guard said. While the batteries are not believed to pose a serious environmental risk, they do contain corrosive material which may result in chemical burns to the skin. Mariners and beachgoers are urged to not approach or open any containers in the water or on shore.
The Columbia Elizabeth is owned by Columbia Coastal Transport, which provides U.S.-flag feeder barge services on the marine highway linking ports in North America plus Freeport, Bahamas and Cuba.
The Coast Guard continues to search the Florida Atlantic Coast between Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral for containers in the water or along the shoreline.
The cause of the incident is under investigation.