Barge towed out to sea after running aground on Longboat Key

Posted by MARC R. MASFERRER on April 9, 2014 

From's Jessica De Leon and Bay News 9

LONGBOAT KEY -- A barge that had run aground on Longboat Key is being towed out to sea.

U.S. Coast Guard officials had been maintaining a watchful eye as a tugboat crew worked to get control of a barge washed up on the beach.

The 140-foot unsecured barge washed up onto Longboat Key in Manatee County early Wednesday.

The Coast Guard said the barge had been beset by heavy weather Tuesday.

"Due to deteriorating weather, the barge spuds were unable to keep the 140-foot barge from drifting to the beach. Coast Guard incident management personnel from Sector St. Petersburg, Fla., are on scene overseeing the operation," the Coast Guard said in a news release. "No pollution has been reported."

"We were monitoring the barge throughout the night," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Garza, member of sector's incident management department. "It was anchored about one half mile from shore. We were prepared for the possibility it could start drifting and as soon as it did, we deployed our emergency responders to assess the situation."

The Coast Guard's St. Petersburg station received notification at 2 a.m., Tuesday, that the operator of tug Abe H was having difficulty steering due to weather and was unable to control the two barges he was pushing approximately one mile west off of Longboat Key.

Coast Guard vessels from Cortez and St. Petersburg responded.

The barge on Longboat Key was one of two to run aground on Manatee County beaches.

"The operator told watchstanders that he was able to anchor one barge; however, while attempting to gain control of the other, the line parted and the barge began drifting until it grounded on the beach at Anna Maria Island," the Coast Guard said.

The barge on Anna Maria Island has also been towed out to sea.

The barge was unsecured so it could be towed but high winds forced it onto the beach. Roped-up contractors also battled waves while trying to use ladders in the waters just off shore to climb onto the barge.

That left a tugboat company to enlist a jet ski rider battling waves to get close enough to attach a tow rope to the barge. Officials were optimistic they would be able to get the barge back out into deeper waters later in the day.

Coast Guard officials said their primary concern was the diesel fuel in the crane and the possibility of high winds tipping it over.

This incident comes a day after another barge was beached along Anna Maria Island and hit a dock. Crews were able to secure that 180-foot long barge and tow it away.

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