MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s a wait and see situation on the high seas as the U.S. Coast Guard and Boat Tow US keep a close watch on a barge taking on water off Miami Beach.

The 270-foot barge, stacked high with 40 empty cargo containers, was en route to Miami’s Government Cut from Haiti on Monday when the tug boat which was towing it experienced fuel problems.  According to the Coast Guard, the tug boat had taken on bad fuel in Haiti.

“The had tried changing out the oil filters as much as they could but eventually the boat just became disabled and completely adrift,” said Coast Guard petty officer Nick Ameen.

With the barge drifting toward the Florida Keys, the US Coast Guard sent out a ship to help.  Early Tuesday morning, when Tow Boat US Miami got involved when the barge was adrift about 10 miles off Miami Beach.

Slideshow: Battle With The Sea

“It’s got a majority of the bow underwater, waves are washing over the deck,” said Taylor Nimmer with Tow Boat US Miami.

Captain Peter Hargraves attempted to pump water out of the barge’s hull but with six to eight foot waves, the bow sinking deeper and the containers ready to go at any moment they were forced to stop.

“(The bow is) Maybe 10 to 15 feet underwater,” said Hargraves.  “At that point, on an angle, the waves are slapping against the containers, it just becomes very dangerous.”

The Coast Guard and TowBoat U.S. will not bring the barge any closer to shore and are instead reportedly waiting to see if it will sink.  They are hoping a wave will knock over the empty cargo containers on the barge so they can bring them to shore, open them and let them sink.

Once the containers are off, they plan to wait until the seas are calm to try to bring the barge in.  Unfortunately, according to the forecast, the ocean will not calm down for at least a week so they may have no option but to sink it.

The Coast Guard will remain on the scene in order to determine what needs to be done next and prevent any environmental damage.


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