July 29, 2008
USCG probes DRD Towing licenses
The Coast Guard says that recent incidents involving tug boats owned or operated by DRD Towing Company LLC have prompted it to closely look into the operations of other vessels operated by the company.
A preliminary Coast Guard investigation found that the crewmember piloting the tug boat Mel Oliver, involved in last week's 420,000 gallon heavy fuel spill into the Mississippi, held an apprentice mate's license.
A formal investigation into the cause of the incident has been ordered by Rear Adm. Joel R. Whitehead, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District. The public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 12 at the Hale Boggs Federal Building, 500 Poydras Street, New Orleans.
Another tug boat operated by DRD Towing, Ruby E, was involved in an incident on July 13, 2008, resulting in the sinking of that vessel. The preliminary investigation into that incident revealed that the crewmember piloting the Ruby E also held an apprentice mate's license.
Apprentice mates require the presence of a licensed master on board, which was not the case on both the Mel Oliver and the Ruby E.
In light of those two incidents, the Coast Guard identified 18 DRD Towing-owned vessels operating through the Western Gulf region, including 12 in New Orleans. The Coast Guard says it visited all 12 vessels on July 23 and all were found to be properly manned with adequately licensed personnel.