Operation Big Tow begins on the upper Mississippi River

ST. LOUIS – The Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River and other Coast Guard units, along the Western River System began Operation Big Tow today, an operation to ensure towing vessels are being operated by properly licensed individuals through a combination of vessel safety checks and verbal “call in” checks.

After a recent collision between a cargo vessel and an oil barge in the Mississippi River near New Orleans more then 420,000 gallons of #6 fuel oil was spilled into the river. Coast Guard investigators determined that an improperly licensed individual was at the helm of the UTV pushing the barge. The ensuing spill and clean up operations did significant damage to the environment and cost the responsible party millions of dollars.

“The majority of the towing industry operates safely and complies fully with licensing requirements,” said Coast Guard Lt. Rob McCaskey. “This comprehensive operation allows the Coast Guard to identify companies that may have problems with compliance and we are committed to minimizing any impact to vessel operations while Coast Guard examiners conduct license and safety checks.”

Vessel owners and operators are encouraged to correct any issues with license compliance and vessel safety.

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