The Mississippi River near the Kentucky-Tennessee border reopened to southbound barge traffic early
Thursday (Feb. 17) after the motor vessel Navigator sank Tuesday night and backed up barge traffic, the U.S. Coast Guard said. About 20 southbound tows were awaiting passage when the river was reopened at 8:15 a.m. CST (1415 GMT
) Thursday, said Lt. Cmdr. Bruce Fisher, the Coast Guard's chief of port operations in Memphis. "At this point it will take about a day and a half to move that line of vessels," said Fisher. "Any vessels coming up on that queue will have to wait their turn moving south."
There should be no delay for northbound barges. The river was reopened to northbound traffic Wednesday afternoon and the tows that were awaiting passage had cleared the area by Wednesday night, Fisher said.
Shippers on the river said barge freight rates increased this week because of the slowdown in movement after the sinking.
The 192-foot Navigator, owned by American Boat Co. in Cahokia, Illinois, was part of a 35-barge tow when it apparently struck a submerged barge Tuesday afternoon and quickly sank.
There were no injuries. One of the barges was damaged and the Navigator leaked a small amount of diesel fuel, the Coast Guard said. "The wheelhouse and stacks were visible yesterday (Wednesday) morning, but we have a tremendous wall of water coming down from rains in the Ohio River Valley area, so it won't be long before she is completely submerged," said Fisher.
Water levels on the Mississippi and other Midwest rivers have been low, which may have contributed to this accident, said Fisher. However, water levels were expected to rise significantly the next few days, he said.