USCG pursues legal action for stranded tugs

Danielle M. Bouchard. Credit: IHS Markit

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is pursuing enforcement action against oil and petroleum shipping firm Bouchard Transportation after it failed to comply with a captain of the port order for one of its two vessels anchored near Port Arthur, Texas.

The tugs Kim M. Bouchard and Danielle M. Bouchard have been at anchor since mid-December with their associated barges. There are no known plans to move the vessels and crew members have gone unpaid since January – raising concerns for their well-being and the local environment. Combined, the tugs and barges are carrying nearly 200,000 gallons of oil, gas, and other potential pollutants.

Captain Jacqueline Twomey, captain of Port Arthur, issued captain of the port orders to both vessels on 10 February to resolve issues with staffing and safety. Danielle M. Bouchard’s order was amended to require additional repairs or to be moored at a dock. Twomey granted a three-day extension to the order for the vessel at the company’s request.

However, Bouchard Transportation failed to comply by the extended deadline of Sunday. Twomey denied a second extension request. According to the USCG, multiple personnel are in daily contact with the crews of both tugs to ensure they’re safe and have sufficient provisions.

“The Coast Guard expects vessel owners to proactively manage the safety of their vessels and ensure operators have sufficient resources to maintain compliance with applicable requirements, and it is our responsibility to the public, professional mariners, and the marine transportation system to hold companies accountable when safety demands it,” said Twomey.

In accordance with the current captain of the port order, maximum civil penalties for the company may include fines of $94,219 for each violation and a class D felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.