Coast Guard uncovers violations in first round of towboat inspections

Jen DeGregorio of the The Times-Picayune reports in New Orleans Local & Small Business News that

A fledgling Coast Guard inspection program meant to crack down on the towboat and barge industry has already uncovered several licensing problems aboard vessels traveling through New Orleans.

Dubbed Operation Big Tow, the program aims to better regulate mariners in the wake of a massive summer oil spill on the lower Mississippi River involving an improperly licensed pilot. The yearlong initiative covers five Coast Guard districts from New Mexico to the Eastern Seaboard and Great Lakes.

The first wave of inspections in the New Orleans district, which occurred this week, found nine licensing violations aboard towboats. The Coast Guard offered few details about the infractions and would not name any of the companies involved.

The agency found three mariners with expired licenses as well as improper license endorsements aboard five vessels. Endorsements refer to constraints on the license, including geographic limitations.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Anastacia Thorsson said she could not describe the sort of endorsements on the licenses or how many mariners had improper endorsements.

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