Poor visibility, pilot error cited in Hudson River barge grounding

Extreme Hudson River fog and a powerful current contributed to the April 4 grounding of a barge carrying 60,000 bbls. of gasoline at Catskill, N.Y., according to a report from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation police.

The 458’x72’ double-hull barge RTC 150, pushed by the 119’x40’x22’, 7,200-hp tugboat Meredith C. Reinauer operated by the Reinauer Transportation Companies, were hauling the fuel upriver to Albany, N.Y.,  when the articulated tug-barge got into trouble and hung up on a stone channel marker just south of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.

The ATB was undamaged in the incident, and no fuel spilled.

That was a good outcome for the New York maritime industry, as the grounding occured amid debate over proposed new anchorage areas on the Hudson River, an industry supported proposal vigorously opposed by environmental groups and river towns. The Coast Guard has paused its consideration of that plan, while it conducts a study to assess safety risks and other issues.

Capt. Steven Hardy, 64, told DEC police he was heading north on the river, pushing against the current in almost zero visibility and relying on electronic navigation. At around 8:15 a.m., the GPS indicated the ATB was on the easternmost side of the channel, and Hardy attempted to steer west and back to the channel center, according to the DEC report.

As he attempted to correct course, the oncoming river current, spurred by outgoing tide, “began to push the tug and barge sideways resulting in an overcorrection of course,” the report says.

“Hardy attempted to compensate and turn back to due north, but this was not sufficient to correct course before the vessel left the western side of the channel and collided with the rocks adjacent to channel marker 121, lying just north of the Catskill Creek outlet.”

One witness interviewed by DEC police recalled watching the incident from Dutchman’s Landing Park on the river. The man saw only the top and side of the Meredith C. Reinauer through dense fog, as it crossed toward the west side of the river and turned north close to shore before grounding.

The ATB RTC 150 and Meredith C. Reinauer, left, aground at Catskill, NY. Standing by is the Reinauer barge RTC 103 and tug Craig Eric Reinauer. NYDEC photo.

The ATB RTC 150 and Meredith C. Reinauer, left, at Catskill, N.Y. Standing by are the Reinauer barge RTC 103 and tug Craig Eric Reinauer. NYDEC photo.

Hardy and his crew commenced pumping ballast to lighten the RTC 150. Close monitoring of the process through the day by the Coast Guard, Reinaeur and state officers found no sign of spillage or water entering the barge, indicating the outer hull had not been punctured. Additional inspections later at Reinauer’s Staten Island, N.Y., base confirmed the barge was undamaged by the grounding.

Reineuer had made preparations for lightering the RTC 150 if necessary, but pumping ballast and the evening tide coming up the Hudson allowed the ATB to refloat around 9:15 p.m. After anchoring for the night, the tug and barge proceeded to the Port of Albany to next day to offload the gasoline cargo.

State officials found no violations as a result of the incident, the report concluded.

 

 

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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