Bouchard Ordered to Move Vessels to Safe Berth Over Safety Issues


by Mike Schuler | February 14, 2020

Photo: / Josh Karp

The U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port of New York and New Jersey has issued an order to New York-based Bouchard Transportation Company requiring that three tug and fuel barge units currently anchored in New York Harbor immediately be moved out of anchorage and moored at a safe berth.

The vessel’s will be required to remain at safe berth until undergoing additional safety inspections to determine they are fit to return to service, the Coast Guard said.

“As a result of recent safety checks, the Coast Guard has determined the operational condition of these vessels poses a risk to the safety of New York and New Jersey waterways,” the Coast Guard said in a statement. “Specifically, Bouchard has been unable to consistently maintain safe fuel and manning levels aboard these vessels, and does not have adequate contingencies in place for emergency weather or other conditions requiring movement within the port.”

There are currently three other Bouchard tug and fuel barge units at anchor in addition to several other Bouchard vessels moored at piers in New York and New Jersey, according to the Coast Guard

The Coast Guard said it is currently closely monitoring the vessels to ensure they do not pose a threat to the safety of the port. 

“My number one priority is to ensure not only the safety of the public and our waterways, but the health and well-being of the crews who do the difficult and hazardous work of operating these vessels.” said Capt. Jason Tama, Captain of the Port of New York. “This is not an action we wanted to take, however, we have a responsibility to keep our waterways safe, and Bouchard’s inability to maintain safe operational conditions aboard these tugs and fuel barges has forced me to take this step.”

In January, Bouchard vessels in the New York area were required to submit safety plans to the Coast Guard at the request of a Captain of the Port order after USCG Sector New York marine inspectors boarded all vessels owned and operated by the company anchored within the Port of New York and New Jersey COTP zone. 

During the inspections, Bouchard crews reported “critical operational conditions such as low fuel and lube oil levels, potential stability concerns, and unauthorized vessel to vessel fuel transfers,” which “posed a hazard to the port,” the order said.

The order also stated that there have been multiple reports of Bouchard crew members “not receiving compensation for earned wages which has resulted in notifications of crewmembers threatening to walk off Bouchard vessels.” 

A spokesperson for Bouchard at the time said the order was “immediately rectified”. 

Bouchard sent us the following statement related to the more recent Captain of the Port order:

The past two years Bouchard has confronted tests the likes of which it has not faced in 100 years of history. Yesterday’s Sector NY/NJ Captain of the Port Order on just six of our fifty one units is a further financial hurdle. Financial struggles are trial enough, but they are worse when they affect or worry our employees.  We are working with financial and technical advisors to address the challenges at every level of our business. Our employees, those who have been with us for years, those new to us in this moment of extreme duress are vital, and their forbearance, more than we have a right to ask for. Today’s COTP Order does not change our focus.  Please know that we are working everyday with clients, creditors, the authorities to put our house aright.  We have a financial plan and a clear understanding of and commitment to all those who work with, support or rely upon us.  Thank you for the opportunity to address your important and painful question.

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