AML Barge Aground in BC


Low water was about 1900. Wasn’t a big flood. There again there are no small floods there.

“…the tug is intact.” Wonder how bad the damage is to the barge. I’ve spent a fair amount of time towing that barge, and she can be kinda unruly at times…but looks like a relatively light load


The owners of the Polar King will be worrying about their pilotage waivers right now. Without pilotage waivers, operating boats on the BC Inside Passage gets expensive in a hurry.

The Pacific Pilotage Authority, the Canadian entity that regulates pilotage in B.C., allows tugs and other commercial vessels to travel the waters of the Inside Passage without a pilot, provided the operating company jumps through hoops in terms of licenses, area experience, manning, equipment, lookouts, etc. Since the grounding of the tug Nathan E. Stewart in 2016 the rules for all this tightened up considerably. Here it seems nothing was spilled, unlike the Stewart incident, where the oil spill greatly angered the citizenry.

Failure to follow the PPA rules can lead to revocation of pilotage waivers, meaning a company would need to put a pilot aboard for a Inside Passage transit; in some cases, for as much as 48 hours. A large expense for operators at, I believe, something like $600/hour.

If I recall correctly, Kirby, the operators of the Nathan E. Stewart, had their waiver pulled, for how long I can’t recall. If I’m wrong about that I’m sure someone will say.

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If I remember right, kirby’s office was familiar with PPA rules, but the crew onboard, not so much. I would imagine this case is a little different, Dunlap’s bread and butter is this and similar runs. I assume that all wheelhouse watch standers would have been PPA waiver holders(based on what I know of the company). One of my first thoughts was how this incident dovetailed into a recent discussion on one of the other threads about the master getting up for the sporty spots. I wonder if traffic stacking up for the next slack had anything to do with this…


What now? I ain’t signing none of that!


Dunlap is a very good midsized family run tugboat company with decades of British Columbia Inside Passage experience. I hope this turns out as well as it can for Dunlap.

The very sensible Canadian PPA rules require two people in the wheelhouse in BC waters, and Seymour Narrows is one of the tight spots where the Master must be on the bridge. In any event, this is the type of place where any Master would be up and immediately available.

This large barge is very lightly loaded so not much lightening would be gained by removing a few empty containers and box cars.

As one might expect with an 8 knot grounding by a flat bottomed barge onto a steep ledge, the damage may be significant. The barge may still be impaled on the ledge.

At this point too little is known to be jumping to any conclusions.

I wish Dunlap the best.


My main conclusion is that navigating the Inside Passage is never easy, and that it’s amazing tugs with barges can navigate such places without running aground the vast majority of the time. I agree: Dunlap is a responsible company and I’m sure their great reputation will make a difference with the PPA.

The difference between the Inside Passage/Salish Sea and a lot of other coasts is that the water is either 50 fathoms deep, or its solid, steel-tearing, granite. No transition. An exaggeration, but you get the point. It’s different than grounding in the bayous. Grounding on the IP=$$$$$$.

Another difference is current. The barge ground a few miles south of Seymour Narrows, which regular gets 12-knot currents, changing directions several times a day. A lot of water moving around. Seymour is one of a chain of saltwater rapids separating the north end of the Salish Sea from Queen Charlotte Sound and the North Pacific. It’s the safest of the rapids to traverse and so it gets a lot of traffic, adding to the difficulty of piloting.

From the photo it looks like the tow was northbound for Seymour. Hard to say.


An eddy current could have easily pushed the tow into the bight onshore.
I wonder how much wire was out and if they were adjusting tow.

Looks like it was south of the Narrows:

From Maritime Ex

The rail barge Nana Provider went aground Saturday night on Quadra Island, British Columbia, just across the Discovery Passage from the town of Campbell River.



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He was north of the reefs at Yaculta. After that, it’s a busy spot right there by Q. Cove. In addition to the north/south traffic of log barges, freighters, commercial fishing boats, and cruise ships, you have the sports fishing boats in and out of the marinas at Campbell River, and the little Q. Cove ferry running at right angles across the channel to and from Campbell River.

Not so much in fall, but in spring you have a lot of big logs floating about, big enough even a big seagoing tug doesn’t want one hitting the wheel. You can encounter them any time of year, though.

A testament to the skill of the local navigators that groundings don’t happen more often.


Grounding the starboard side of the barge on the starboard side of the channel indicates northbound. So does the AIS destination of Whitter.

I am confused about such a small quantity of empties going northbound. My first thought was southbound, but that is wrong. Different press reports gave different directions.

The first thing I did on hearing the news was find Polar King on AIS, and then look at the chart. It’s easy to find the halftide rock shown in the photos off the starboard side of the barge on the chart in a location that matches the AIS. One can see that the channel is very deep, but that a ledge sticks out a little bit beyond the halftide rock shown in the photo. The barge is certainly too close to the shore.

How it got there awaits the release of more facts.


From Canadian press:

An American cargo barge that was stuck on a reef off of Quadra Island for nearly a week has now been freed.

The Nana Provider ran aground on Nov. 9 when it was being pulled north to Alaska by the tugboat Polar King. That vessel was one of five tugs that could be seen in and around the barge as it was being re-floated off the reef early Friday morning.

The flotilla, which also included three Canadian Coast Guard vessels escorted the Nana Provider to a barge facility north of Campbell River where it will undergo inspection and repairs.

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