On June 13, 2011, Donjon-SMIT, LLC, was notified that a client vessel was aground in the Mississippi River just above Cubit’s Gap, about 10 miles below Venice, La. Traffic on the Mississippi was not impeded by the grounded vessel. Donjon-SMIT, an OPA-90 salvage and marine firefighting provider, was placed on standby pending the results of efforts to refloat the vessel with tugs. Approximately midday on June 14, the vessel’s salvage response plan was activated, and Donjon-SMIT mobilized its personnel and assets to refloat the vessel.
Within a few hours of activation of the salvage plan, one of Donjon-SMIT’s Rapid Response Assessors was on scene to conduct the initial onsite salvage assessment. Donjon-SMIT’s salvage team arrived shortly after, and efforts began to conduct a damaged stability assessment and to utilize tugs to refloat the vessel.
“The vessel was broadside into the current, so there was a very real concern that the situation could worsen quickly,” said Paul Hankins, President of Donjon-SMIT. “We were also worried about the rapid silting around the vessel.”
Overnight on June 14 and into the morning of June 15, four and eventually five tugs were used to scour the buildup of silt around the vessel and to attempt to refloat and maneuver it back into the channel. While these efforts were ongoing, preparations were being made on a lightering plan should the tug efforts prove to be unsuccessful.
The vessel was refloated and began making significant headway and was eventually maneuvered back into the channel. The vessel was successfully anchored at South West Pass Fairway anchorage.
Donjon-SMIT conducted a hull survey on June 16 while the vessel was at anchor. Some damage was found on the bilge keel of the vessel, but the hull was intact and it was cleared by the U.S. Coast Guard to continue on its voyage.
June 20, 2011