Coast Guard Begins Operation Big Tow along the First Coast

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Coast Guard units along the First Coast will be conducting a marine safety operation November through January to ensure uninspected towing vessels are properly manned with adequate numbers of qualified and licensed crewmembers.

Operation Big Tow is being conducted in response to several recent marine casualties, which includes a collision between a cargo vessel and a loaded oil barge in the Mississippi River that resulted in more than 282,000 gallons of fuel oil spilling into the river. At the helm of the uninspected towing vessel pushing the barge was an improperly licensed individual.

The primary objective of the operation is to ensure uninspected towing vessels are being operated by properly licensed individuals through boardings and examinations.

The Coast Guard will be working with the towing industry and towing vessel operators to conduct boardings underway, pier side or through other methods that facilitate the flow of commerce while allowing examiners to check licenses and conduct safety checks.

“Although we have not had any towing vessel accidents in Central and Northeastern Florida, we want to be proactive in ensuring the vessels and crews are safe and our waterways are protected,” said Capt. Paul Thomas, commanding officer of Sector Jacksonville.

The Coast Guard is committed to improving the safety of the towing industry and encourages owners and operators of uninspected towing vessels to correct any issues with license compliance and safety.

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