US-Flagged Tug Boat Sea Eagle and Attached Barge Crash into Florida Beach

On the evening of February 3, 2022, a tug boat and a barge crashed onto the sands of Deerfield Beach in Florida. The US Coast Guard quickly responded and rescuers were at the site of the incident at 8:45 pm. They reported that there were four persons on board the 70-foot Sea Eagle tug, none of whom were injured.

The US Coast Guard Southeast posted real-time updates of the situation on Twitter. They also posted a video the following morning showing that the grounded barge is on the Boca Raton side of the beach and has already been attached to a tug.

In a subsequent USCGSoutheast tweet, they reported that the tugboat has been transferred to Port Everglades to be placed under investigation and also to undergo repairs. As to the cause of the grounding of the two vessels, there is still some investigation being done. Part of the beach was closed after the incident but as soon as the boats have been removed, the entire Deerfield Beach has opened once again.

What Kind of Cargo Was the Sea Eagle Tug Transporting?

The Sea Eagle, which was operated by Northcliffe Ocean Shipping & Trading, is part of a weekly tug and barge transport service for the Military Sealift Command in the Bahamas between the island of Andros and Port Canaveral in Nassau. The NOSAT is in partnership with the US Navy and uses its tug boats and barges to deliver a variety of supplies to the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center. On the evening of the grounding, the Sea Eagle was carrying munitions from Port Canaveral to the facility.

Are There Any Risks of Water Pollution Due to the Grounding of the Sea Eagle?

Since the Sea Eagle had been carrying about 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel, efforts were quickly made in order to minimize the risk of spillage into the sea water. The Incident Management Division of the Coast Guard’s Sector Miami saw to it that all traces of fuel were removed from the water.

More importantly, the grounding of the Sea Eagle came with the more immediate threat of oil contamination in the water. Thus, the USCG has deployed crews to contain the oil in case of a spill. The local salver, Resolve, has also responded to the incident and has provided their services for the removal of fuel and oil from the boats.

What Happened to the Ordnance Cargo That Was Aboard the Barge?

In order to minimize the safety risks to the people in the vicinity and to the surroundings themselves, the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Six, Det. Mayport has cleared the barge of all munitions that are still on board before it was refloated and towed to a different location.

How Much of Deerfield Beach Was Closed to the Public?

From the time of the grounding until the boats were safely transported to a nearby port, local authorities had set up a security zone of 1,000 feet on the beach side and 1,000 yards on the water side. Beachgoers were discouraged from lingering around the area. Along the beach, security was maintained through joint efforts of Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton and the Sheriff’s office of Broward County.

Deerfield Beach is a popular hangout spot for both tourists and locals because of its powdery, white sand and clear waters. There is also the 976-foot International Fishing Pier where people can take pictures, fish, or just enjoy the sea without getting wet, both during the day and night. The pier is also a great place to catch a glimpse of some turtles and stingrays swimming in the blue waters.

What Are the Legal Ramifications That Could Result from the Deerfield Grounding?

Since the investigation as to the cause of the grounding and its surrounding circumstances is still under way, it can be difficult to speculate as to what kind of legal consequences will take place. For certain, there has to be some kind of accountability for what happened. Although there are no people reportedly injured during the incident, there is still the matter of property damage on the vessels and on the cargo on board.

Also, if there is considerable oil spillage surrounding the areas where the tug boat and the barge had grounded, this might lead to a variety of personal injuries or environmental damage. Some establishments along the beach that had experienced business losses due to the closure after the incident might also be interested in seeking damages.

In any case, the cause of the grounding will first need to be clearly identified before any further legal actions can be taken. Among the many possible causes could be improper vessel piloting and navigation, poor lighting since it happened at night, or maybe it was an act of God.

Can a Maritime Accident Lawyer Help?

They certainly can. If you had been affected by this incident in any way, or any other tugboat accident for that matter, you should consult with a maritime lawyer to check your rights and to see if there is something you can do to claim damages.

It is very important to note that you should not just consult with any lawyer. Only experts in US maritime law will be able to give you the best legal representation for these situations because they are fully aware of the intricacies of maritime law and all its possible applications.

Our maritime accident lawyers here at O’Bryan Law would be more than happy to assist you with any of your concerns. Just give us a call and we will be happy to give you a free assessment of your case.