FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Crews at Port Everglades were back at work Wednesday trying to secure 27 cargo containers that tipped over on a barge.
The Coast Guard said around 1 p.m. Monday they received a report from the Tug Spence that 22 containers had fallen off the barge Atlantic Trader in the ocean 18 miles East of Key Biscayne. The barge, which had left port in Jacksonville, was headed to Guantanamo Bay.
“Containers on vessels are supposed to be secured on deck,” said the United States Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Braney. “I don’t know whether they were secure or something malfunctioned.”
The floating containers were marked with strobe lights to prevent a hazard to navigation as the barge. Two salvage companies were hired to fish the containers out of the ocean and bring them to Port Everglades.
Three tug boats towed the Tug Spence and barge Atlantic Trader, with some containers still hanging over the side, and some container stacks fallen over like dominoes, to Port Everglades. On Tuesday, crews began disconnecting and pulling apart the toppled containers. The work continued Wednesday.
“This is like a giant game of pickup sticks but it’s no game. It’s carefully calculating which container needs to come off,” said Broward Sheriff’s spokesman Mike Jachles. “We are not in any race against time here, nor are the people doing the salvage operations.”
The containers are loaded with various supplies; everything from beer to groceries to cleaning products. The containers also include paint and some products with hazardous chemicals.
“I know some of the contents contain household goods. Some of them hazardous materials,” said Braney.
““Hazardous materials can translate into a lot of things. It could be household bleach,” added Jachles.
While the contents of the teetering containers on the barge are not expected to put anyone in danger, the containers still at sea are another story.
Despite constant aerial surveys done by the Coast Guard, only one container has been spotted.
“Right now its 27 miles off Fort Pierce,” said Braney.
Caught in the Gulf Stream, the extremely heavy container traveled 140 miles in three days.
Two years ago when a barge ran into trouble off Miami Beach, the Coast Guard ended up sinking it because there was concern that boat would run into the containers onboard. This time around, it appears the containers are sinking on their own.