Barge Breakaway Briefly Closes River In St. Louis

A breakaway of about 40 barges in the St. Louis region on February 12 closed the river as it took most of a day to round up, but resulted in no spills, injuries or sinkings.

Watchstanders at Sector Upper Mississippi River received a report at 3 a.m. that there was a multi-barge breakaway from a fleeting area on the Upper Mississippi River—an ARTCO fleet at Barton Street, according to one river industry source, who said some of those barges struck downstream moored barges and broke them loose in a cascading effect. A Coast Guard spokesperson said about 40 barges were involved, although that number wasn’t confirmed at press time.

The Coast Guard initially closed the river for the safety of those on the waterway, but once all the loose barges were accounted for, the river was reopened. Multiple towing vessels in the area from several companies worked together to account for and secure all the loose barges.

“The Coast Guard works closely with our port partners and local law enforcement to properly manage incidents like this,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kathryn McCormack, the incident commander representing Sector Upper Mississippi River. “Anyone on the water should maintain vigilance while operating on the waterway.”

The cause of the incident remains under investigation.