Coast Guard removes restrictions on Thimble Shoals Channel near Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Frank DrewPORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Coast Guard removed transit restrictions Friday on the Thimble Shoals Channel between buoys 1 and 2, and Anchorage C.

At 2:02 p.m. Thursday, Fifth District Coast Guard watchstanders were notified a vessel being towed by McAllister Towing of Virginia Inc. and buoy 11 allided. The buoy went missing, resulting in traffic restrictions in the channel for deep-draft vessels.

The U.S. Navy’s salvage ship USNS Grapple (T-ARS 53) with Coast Guard personnel and the Port’s Maritime Incident Response team conducted an underwater survey of the channel, and based on the findings and discussion with the Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads removed the channel restrictions.

Multiple agencies are assisting in the search for the missing buoy, including personnel from:

  • Coast Guard Cutter Frank Drew
  • An HH-60T Medium Range Recovery helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina
  • USNS Grapple (T-ARS 53)
  • Port of Virginia Maritime Incident Response Team
  • Navy Mobile Diving Support Unit Two
  • Virginia Beach Police Dept.
  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • Virginia Pilots Association
  • Virginia Port Authority

“This was a complex situation that required the work of multiple agencies,” said Capt. Christopher Keane, captain of the port for Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads.  “If it weren’t for the outstanding partnership and cooperation of the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy and local agency partners working in concert with the Coast Guard, surveying and reopening the channel to all traffic would have been a much more complex task.  We were able to reopen the waterway and restore vessel traffic in Hampton Roads because of this collaborative effort.”

The location of the buoy is under investigation.

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