Barge makes an emergency stop in yacht harbor entrance

Presidio Planning
An oil containment boom
was employed around the barge

Photo: B. Mason
A hopper barge known as The Sand Merchant made an unscheduled stop in the Marina Yacht Harbor on the morning of Feb. 15. The barge had to be pushed to shore by its tugboat partner, William R., after it starting taking on water.

The Sand Merchant had been part of a dredging operation in the middle of the bay when it developed a 12-inch hole in its hull, causing the engine room to flood. Fearing that the barge could sink, the tug quickly guided the vessel aground in the shallower waters at the entrance of the yacht harbor.

If the barge had sunk, the fuel tanks that hold around 3,800 gallons of fuel could have easily ruptured. The Coast Guard was quick to praise the tugboat captain for his efforts in averting the potential disaster.

By 10 a.m. that morning, Foss Maritime, owners of the barge and tug, had employed an oil containment boom completely around the grounded vessel as a precaution. Though a light sheen had been spotted on the water surrounding the barge from Coast Guard and news helicopters, it apparently was hydraulic oil washed out of the engine room by the flooding water. It was reported that only about a gallon of oil was released into the bay from the incident.

Vessels from the Coast Guard, the S.F. Department of the Environment, and San Francisco Baykeeper were on hand to monitor the situation throughout the day, and all seemed pleased with the minimal environmental impact from the event.

“What we did today was a testament to everything we’ve learned since Cosco Busan,” said Gus Dannan of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The 230-foot by 55-foot barge sat sideways in the Marina Yacht Harbor entrance throughout the day, but did not block other boats from entering or exiting. A second barge was brought alongside The Sand Merchant so the 3,000 tons of sand on board could be removed. Once
the transfer was made, the barge was refloated and towed away during the 10:30 p.m. high tide.