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Old 08-23-2016, 09:44 AM   #1
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Gravel barge just flipped in Seattle ship canal

Wow, a gravel barge just flipped in the Seattle ship canal. It was tied up at Ballard Sand and Gravel, actually three barges side by side. The middle one flipped and come down on top of the outermost barge. They were loading or unloading at the time, so presumably some excessive imbalance caused it. The two entangled barges are drifting free and appear to have come up against a pier. We are directly across the canal and heard it and have been watching since.

The police on scene reported to the CG over VHF that all people were accounted for, no injuries, and no fuel spills.
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Old 08-23-2016, 02:32 PM   #2
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Just a quick correction. It's Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, not Ballard Sand and Gravel.
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Old 08-23-2016, 04:49 PM   #3
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I am surprised that this would happen. I would think that there would be enough folks working on the barge to call out any problem with load distribution. But then I know nothing about the barges other than watching them go up and down the Sound in front of my house as a kid.
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Old 08-23-2016, 05:00 PM   #4
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May not just flipped from the load...leaks and flooding could be a factor.
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Old 08-23-2016, 05:26 PM   #5
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May not just flipped from the load...leaks and flooding could be a factor.
Good point. Do some barges have ballast tanks as well?
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Old 08-23-2016, 05:29 PM   #6
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Good point. Do some barges have ballast tanks as well?
Don't know of any, am much more familiar with very small barges.

Do believe some are required to have watertight compartments....can't say about hopper barges.
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Old 08-23-2016, 05:57 PM   #7
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This is pure speculation, but here goes.....

Obviously the barge was overloaded on one side to have flipped. So the question seems to be how it got so overloaded without the crane operator realizing it. They load and unload the barges with a crane with a clamshell bucket, and it runs from 7:00 to 3:00 every day. I've been watching them for 2 years now. It's not like this is the first time the guy has done it.

So here's my theory. There were three barges lashed together, and the one in the middle flipped. My guess is that the loading was way out of balance, but because there were barges lashed on both side, they were carrying much of the weight. As a result, the imbalanced barge didn't show the list that would otherwise have been apparent were it not ballasted by the other barges. Then, the lines parted from the strain, it tipped abruptly, loads shifted, and over she went.

Others have brought up water infiltration, and that's certainly possible. I could see that seriously exacerbating the situation. But something allowed it to go from OK to upside down very abruptly, and the parting -lines theory is the only explanation I can come up with, even if flooding was a compounding problem.

Also mentioned was double hulls and internal flotation. I don't know with any certainty, but looking at both barges I would guess that there is internal flotation in the form of sealed compartments or something similar. The upright barge that is carrying much of the flipped barge has one corner, if not two, well under water. If there were no flotation the barge would have sunk, and it's still floating. Similarly, the flipped barge has one whole side under water. Without flotation is would surely have slid off the upright barge and sunk, but it remains in position. And last, when the tugs showed up to fetch the two barges which were adrift, they were able to maneuver them back into their original berth positions. I was a bit surprised that the flipped barge wasn't dragging on the bottom, but it appears not. Flotation seems the likely explanation.
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Old 08-23-2016, 06:40 PM   #8
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When I worked at Western Towboat we towed those barges for Salmon Bay to the gravel pit in Steilacoom all the time. Its not unheard of to flip one from time to time. In this case not being there I have no idea, the barge could have been leaking and flipped or as above it could have been a loading issue. Time will tell. At least no one was hurt.
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Old 08-23-2016, 08:33 PM   #9
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When I worked at Western Towboat we towed those barges for Salmon Bay to the gravel pit in Steilacoom all the time. Its not unheard of to flip one from time to time. In this case not being there I have no idea, the barge could have been leaking and flipped or as above it could have been a loading issue. Time will tell. At least no one was hurt.
Those barges going to and from the sand and gravel quarry in University Place were the ones I grew up watching. Our beach used to be nice and sandy from the barges being washed down and all that sand flowing North with the current. When that practice stopped, the sandy beach slowly went away.

The site is now Chambers Bay Golf Course and the old pier was removed right before the US Open to make for better television.
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Old 08-23-2016, 08:36 PM   #10
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Yeah, its the same place. They closed it all down for the golfers. I don't know where SB gets its sand now.
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Old 08-23-2016, 09:09 PM   #11
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Wow-Peter-hadn't seen that yet. Like most here, have seen those barges up and down the Ship Canal all the time. I think the sand and gravel comes from over on the Kitsap Peninsula somewhere, I know there has been a lot of controversy over there the last few years about expanding gravel mine.

Guess that's a gravel bottom over there now!
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Old 08-24-2016, 07:00 AM   #12
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All Barges have water tight compartments. It is the only way they float. And if one has an undetected leak.....
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Old 08-24-2016, 09:19 AM   #13
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All Barges have water tight compartments. It is the only way they float. And if one has an undetected leak.....

The space between the coaming of the barges shown and the outside of the hull are broken into water tight compartments with access through manholes on the deck. Furthermore the bow (rake) is also watertight.

The fact that most barges today do have water tight compartments is not the reason they float. It allows for containment of problems and ability to inspect, and recover as necessary isolate a leak. A barge or for that matter most any vessel floats because it weighs less than the water it is displacing. Historically there have been thousands of single skin non compartmentalized barges and boats that float.

I would refer you to Mr. Archimedes and his principle.
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Old 08-24-2016, 10:14 AM   #14
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The space between the coaming of the barges shown and the outside of the hull are broken into water tight compartments with access through manholes on the deck. Furthermore the bow (rake) is also watertight.

The fact that most barges today do have water tight compartments is not the reason they float. It allows for containment of problems and ability to inspect, and recover as necessary isolate a leak. A barge or for that matter most any vessel floats because it weighs less than the water it is displacing. Historically there have been thousands of single skin non compartmentalized barges and boats that float.

I would refer you to Mr. Archimedes and his principle.
Thus endeth today's science lesson.....
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Old 08-24-2016, 10:59 AM   #15
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All Barges have water tight compartments. It is the only way they float. And if one has an undetected leak.....
Yes, looking more closely at the overturned barge it is clear that the hull is a closed container and the cargo rides on top.

It's going to take one hell of a crane to get that thing lifted off the other barge and turned upright. If nothing else, it's a long reach. I didn't see it come and go, but apparently a barge and crane arrived yesterday, took one look, and left with it's tail between it's legs. Should make for interesting watching over the next few days or however long it takes.
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Old 08-24-2016, 11:33 AM   #16
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I haven't been following this on the new but I am pretty certain with the number of really big crane barges nearby that flipping it over will be a matter of course. FOSS has a huge one and there are others around.
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Old 08-24-2016, 11:36 AM   #17
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I haven't been following this on the new but I am pretty certain with the number of really big crane barges nearby that flipping it over will be a matter of course. FOSS has a huge one and there are others around.
Being completely unfamiliar with them, I am always amazed at what the large equipment can accomplish.
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Old 08-24-2016, 11:47 AM   #18
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Being completely unfamiliar with them, I am always amazed at what the large equipment can accomplish.
No, I had better not comment on this.
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Old 08-24-2016, 11:57 AM   #19
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The space between the coaming of the barges shown and the outside of the hull are broken into water tight compartments with access through manholes on the deck. Furthermore the bow (rake) is also watertight.

The fact that most barges today do have water tight compartments is not the reason they float. It allows for containment of problems and ability to inspect, and recover as necessary isolate a leak. A barge or for that matter most any vessel floats because it weighs less than the water it is displacing. Historically there have been thousands of single skin non compartmentalized barges and boats that float.

I would refer you to Mr. Archimedes and his principle.
They may be "watertight" by design, but I've never seen one that was. I can't speak to ocean going barges, but the ones on the Ohio River are less than. They do have separate compartments accessed by manholes, but I've never seen a seal/gasket in place on one of those manholes. A captain can plow the head of the tow and flood those compartments in no time which meant a 1000' walk with the pump and hose = deckhand. Additionally, freeboard on a loaded barge could be as little as a foot and a half. Taking wind swells abeam could also flood the compartments. If the gravel barge listed far enough to wash those manholes, there would be no way to respond quickly enough to stop it IMHO
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Old 08-24-2016, 12:12 PM   #20
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Notland.... Ah someone else that has made that journey with a pump and hose. What you say is true but in this instance I do not see where the wind swells or "plow" would apply to a barge docked inside another barge. I would have to go with the broken lines / cables while unloading speculation as to flipping over. Typically you would think that they would unload or load from one end NOT the Sides. Could have been in inexperienced operator on the clam shell bucket.
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