Inland Salvage Inc. Salvage Team members recently fought with high current Mississippi River conditions to refloat a sunken coal barge near Lake Providence, LA. The barge was fully loaded and headed south when it went down in March of this year.
Having been on the river bottom this long, the barge was partially buried in river sediment. The salvage crew began the task of digging the wreck clear. Methods involving clam buckets proved unsuccessful as the river current would cause the equipment to become fouled and uncontrollable. An 80 ft. compressed air-lift suction system was quickly assembled and proved to be capable of moving the mud, sand, and remaining cargo in the high current. Once the barge was exposed, the dive team began to survey the condition of the barge. Divers were challenged by the river conditions, but, without incident, they were able to empty the mud filled tanks and rig the wreck to the Inland Salvage heavy lift barges Big Al and Large Marge.
The wreck was raised and, while still held in the cranes, moved toward the bank and into shallow water. Hull surveys found limited damage and the Salvage Master determined the barge could be repaired to float on its own again. Welders worked to patch the damaged tanks and soon the barge was floating again without the need for pumps to maintain buoyancy. The barge was then towed to dry dock for repairs.