Friday, February 10, 2012

Delta Mariner carries away a portion of bridge at Kentucky


One of  the queer collisions that I have read about – the vessel MV Delta Mariner, a cargo ship strike at Eggner Ferry Bridge, Kentucky recently.

The vessel is a cargo ship operated by Foss Maritime for United Launch Alliance with  primary role of transporting components for the Boeing Atlas V and Delta rockets from the manufacturer in Decatur, Alabama to launch facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  This has a special design for shallow inland waterways as well as the open ocean and is capable of carrying up to three 160-foot (49 m) long Delta IV Common Booster Cores.  Reportedly, the vessel plies on two routes towards the Gulf of Mexico – the transits from the Boeing Plant around Florida peninsula is 3400 km trip while the other one through Panama canal which is lengthier.
 
In 2001, Delta Mariner ran aground on a sandbar in Tennessee river – that was described as the vessel’s first arrival at the dock after its launch; it was freed by a tugboat within hours.  The recent collision at the bridge is interesting.   On January 26, 2012,  Delta Mariner struck the Eggner Ferry Bridge, which crosses Kentucky Lake. Generally, when collision occurs, the vessel could be badly damaged, there could be personal injuries, injuries to third party property or vessel or to fixed installation.  Here there were no injuries or damage to the ship.  Queerly, the collision destroyed a 300-foot (91 m) section of the bridge.  The exact cause of incident was not known; U.S. Coast Guard officials state the vessel was operating in a recreational channel at the time of the collision, rather than the shipping channel which offers greater bridge clearance.    The ship had to remain anchored at the bridge since the incident took place so that salvage plans could be developed and equipment moved into place.  Days later, divers worked to remove debris which caught underwater on the Mariner's hull.  There are debris attached to the front of the hull, which would be moved once it reaches a safer harbour. 

Eggner Ferry Bridge is a two-lane bridge in  the U.S. state of Kentucky. The bridge was built to cross the Tennessee River before Kentucky Lake was planned. The bridge was opened to traffic on March 25, 1932.  The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River. It is approximately 652 miles (1049 km) long. 

It is this bridge which lost a main span in the collision – the situation would have been much worse, if at the ill-fated hour vehicles had been running on that portion of the bridge.  Reportedly around 2800 cars ply on the bridge every day.    There are some suggestions that  some of the bridge's navigational lighting was inoperative at the time of the incident; there are also counter claims that the lights facing the MV Delta Mariner were operational, and that the Coast Guard had made the lighting situation known to vessels operating on the waterway.  Kentucky Governor  has announced that the state will immediately review all options for restoring the roadway to service.

Besides the structural damage, there is concern of the  economic impact  arising out of operational unavailability of the bridge.  The bridge collapse has had an immediate impact on employees and students at Murray State University who have been forced to take a longer route to the University, increasing driving times by approximately an hour, as well as the increased cost in fuel for driving the extra distance.

The efforts to remove the twisted and tangled remains of the Eggner's Ferry Bridge from the bow of the Delta Mariner are underway. Though the cutting away of the sub-surface material from the portside of the ship was initiated immediately, there are apprehensions that removal of the debris from the ship could take several more weeks.  Though there are no fixed routes as we have on land, there are established patterns of navigation and the Captain having ventured in the route many a times, should have known the place too well – how the ship struck the  bridge is open to question.  Possibly it was operating somewhere where it ought not to have.  

Whatever it be subsurface debris of twisted steel and chunks of asphalt  entangled to the bow of the ship makes a strange sight. The Coast Guard has set up a safety zone extending approximately one mile on either side of the bridge on the Tennessee River to protect the public. The river was opened to commercial traffic on Jan. 28, with speed restrictions.  Motorists who travelled  over the bridge, prior to the accident, are now being detoured.


Just imagine how one would have felt, if after driving on the bridge suddenly they were to find a portion missing and being taken away by a ship at that. !!  -  being a very old bridge whether it could repaired to a state of service is also under apprehension !!!  Milling crowds wanting to see the broken remains at close quarters caused more trouble and Kentucky officials warned people to stay off the bridge due to safety reasons.  As crowds still ignored safety warning and ventured walking around barricades, the authorities had stated that anyone caught walking on bridge US68 faces a fine and possible jail time.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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