Towboat Sinks On LMR Near LaPlace, La.

The U.S. Coast Guard received word around 3 p.m. March 7 that the mv. St. Rita, a towboat owned and operated by Marquette Transportation Company, sank on the right descending bank of the Lower Mississippi River near LaPlace, La.

The St. Rita was carrying five crew members, all of whom made it safely off the vessel before it sank. The crews aboard a pair of vessels in the vicinity, the mv. Rod C and the mv. Roger D, saw the incident and immediately rendered aid to the five Marquette crew members. The Rod C and Roger D are operated by Plimsoll Marine, a Cooper Group company.

The Good Samaritan vessels transported the crew members of the St. Rita to shore. No injuries were reported to the Coast Guard.

“We are working with our federal, state and local partners and the responsible party to oversee the salvage and cleanup operations with the goal of minimizing the impact to the maritime transportation system and the environment,” said Cmdr. Zachary Ford, chief of the Coast Guard’s Sector New Orleans response department.

The St. Rita reportedly had about 13,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board.

A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter conducted an overflight shortly after the incident and noted a sheen in the water between Miles 132 and 117. The Coast Guard’s incident management team, along with representatives from Marquette, later did a shoreline assessment and also noted a sheen in the river.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

The local Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) implemented one-way traffic on the Lower Mississippi River between Miles 133.5 and 132 due to the sinking, which occurred at approximately Mile 132.8 near the right descending bank. The latest information is available from VTS on channel 05A or by phone at 504-365-2514. Updates will also be broadcast in a safety broadcast notice to mariners.

Marquette Transportation Company released the following statement regarding the incident:

“Marquette Transportation continues to cooperate with the U.S. Coast Guard in responding to yesterday’s incident involving the St. Rita. Marquette responded to the incident by immediately dispatching response teams to the site.

“While it is premature to discuss any potential causes, the current high-water levels in the Mississippi River do increase the complexity in navigating the river.

“We are thankful that all crew members of the St. Rita are safe, and we will continue to work with the Coast Guard regarding the incident.”