Lack of Maintenance Sunk $6M Barge

It released nearly 2,000 gallons of oil.

It turns out a lack of ambition sunk the “Ambition,” a crane barge that was declared a total loss after capsizing in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

The Ambition was being towed when it sank on June 15, 2022 and released nearly 2,000 gallons of oil. The vessel, owned by Rigid Constructors, was a $6.3 million loss. Results from a recent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation blamed the accident on failure to properly inspect and maintain the barge.

The crane barge was being towed offshore due to height restrictions despite lacking a certificate, exemption or designation for special service. A deckhand from the towing vessel checked out the Ambition prior to moving it and found the ship had several hatch cover gaskets that were not in place, some hatch cover lids that were not physically locked, and some visible hull damage.

The crane barge ended up sinking in about 54 feet of water. No one aboard the barge or the towing vessel was hurt in the accident.

After the accident, investigators found a 25-foot-long separation along the weld seam between the bilge knuckle and bottom plates, according to the NTSB report. A temporary fix had been made to help prevent the barge from taking on water but Rigid never got around to making a more permanent fix before the problem got worse.

“To protect vessels and the environment, it is good marine practice for vessel owners to conduct regular oversight and maintenance of hulls, including between drydock periods,” the report said. “An effective maintenance and hull inspection program should proactively address potential steel wastage, identify hull and watertight integrity deficiencies, and ensure corrosion issues are repaired in a timely manner by permanent means.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, equipment breaking down is one of the more common causes of oil spills along with operator errors, natural disasters, and deliberate acts by terrorists, countries at war, vandals, or illegal dumpers.

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