Over 30 months and still no USCG report on Bouchard Transportation barge explosion with two fatalities

It seems very disturbing that it has been over 30 months (Incident occurred 20 OCT 2017) since the explosion on the tank barge B-255 owned and operated by Bouchard Transportation took the lives of 26 yo Du’jour Vanterpool and 28 yo Zachariah Jackson and there has been no final report from the US Coast Guard. The NTSB issued their report May 9, 2019 so this does not appear to be the hold up.

Well they still have to explain after doing inspections on all those tugs and barges for all those years across the country why the USCG and ABS pulled ALL the paper on those tugs and barges in one afternoon. I don’t blame the Mariners. I place it squarely in the USCG/ABS laps and waiting anxiously.

My guess is they will blame the Masters for not reporting and site their responsibilty per the CFR’s and raise the penalties for not reporting accordingly and deal with the systemic issues.

There can only be two reasons why this occurred:

  1. The USCG AND ABS were not doing their job and were promoting commerce over safety.
  2. They have NO IDEA what they are looking at when conducting inspections.

Hint: Look at the former jobs of the senior leadership at ABS and you can deduce the answer.

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Who least wants to see this report come out.
1-Bouchard
2-USCG
3-ABS.
They are all going to come out looking real bad if the report is honest and truthful.
If the report is honest and truthful.

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The term regulatory capture come to mind.

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I’m aware of a grounding that has never had an official report made by any entity, namely the USCG. One of the noted causes of the event (but not the only one) was a channel marker buoy that was out of position. For a long time. Without an official notice.

Sadly, our USCG is so overwhelmed by too many tasks that has caused it as a gov’t agency to lose focus of it’s primary mission. I do NOT say that as a disparaging remark. The men and women of the USCG are some of the best out there on the water (and in the air). The history of the USCG going generations back is one of “consolidation” of a variety of services that covered the maritime industry.

But today, our “Coast” Guard is routinely deployed overseas. We even had them serving in the Middle East Wars, placing ships into “International” efforts. Please don’t reply back with comments about “mission” and “inter-agency support” and the blah blah blah of justification of why our USCG is sent far afield. That effort is just a distraction from my primary point.

Perhaps now we are at a point in history where the USCG needs to be broken up and have its various “missions” re-evaluated for what they are and what they were intended to be. This will certainly compel others to give a contradictory view … especially if they currently serve the USCG or are retired. I’ve sat thru many maritime events with featured speakers from the USCG. They are typically of the mind and emphatically ALL state, “We are expected to do more with less”.

I agree with that statement. What I want to know is…why? Why does the leadership at the highest level cave in and say yes to anything congress demands you do? I know the obvious answer is money and funding. You all have to “play along” to get what you want, too.

But when our USCG assets (a buoy tender that I know of) are sent overseas and their list of nav-aids that are their responsibility to maintain falls on the “wait list” and you all will get back to it … later … then an accident happens … then I believe we’re doing something wrong.

My opinion might be wrong. But the facts aren’t.

I suspect (getting back to the original post) it takes so long to get a report out, because there is something wrong internally and nobody wants to confess or be embarrassed or to CAUSE such professional embarrassement. I get it and I understand.

But that doens’t make it right.

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My most awesome nephew is a lifer in USCG. Has served many billets ,vessel inspection, drug interdiction, safety inspections, Sea rescue ,etc,etc. The 20 or so years he has been in USCG as an engineer, one of his reappearing comments was they don’t have the money to effectively do the job. Wasn’t a complaint regarding the administrative side, it was about parts and equipment to do their job. They are underfunded in a not small way. My neighbor’s wife is in administration as a civilian for many more years. She shares similar opinions, workload is pretty high, and personnel are a bit short… Not making excuses here, but they are up against a very high workload.

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Captain Ed,

Thank you for the post, and I fully support your observations. The USCG does attract and develop some of the best in the maritime and aviation fields. And their missions are so varied in almost every way that dilution of asset and personnel effectiveness ends up being the unintended consequence very often.

Not to stray too far from the topic, I have also seen throughout the regulatory cycle and now in this case the enforcement and oversight of inspected vessels a very disturbing trend of industry capture of the mission. I have seen this in the many, many special interest regulations 46 CFR and 33 CFR contain; in the way the CBP enforces the Jones Act; and now with the El Faro and B-255 accidents the control by industry of inspection oversight and marine investigation outcomes. I believe we all understand the USCG has a mandate to support the maritime industry, my concern is that support appears to be focused on protecting vessel owners and operators and not so much on Mariner safety which is another important mandate for them.

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Agree, there were many questions but no surprises to some of the testimony in all the vessels/ incidences you mention regarding ABS/USCG oversight. Is/was no secret Mariners operating the vessels were perhaps not the focus. These inspections overwhelmed the USCG with the talent available and that was where ABS stepped in/invited. I tend to look at both sides, the owners/operators failed us, as well as USCG, and ABS for okaying the inspections to the undermanned and less experienced inspectors from USCG. All three at fault. I’m home safe thank goodness. Would like to hear the final report as well as you Capt Ed.

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Yessir!
I totally understand and, in spite of the tone of my earlier post, I actually am very sympathetic towards the CG. I think the need to get back to nav-aid care, vessel inspection, licensing, SAR, and coastwise patrols in support of vessel and public safety, with a “supportive” role in drug interdiction. I also believe they should be involved in fisheries and minerals inspection within our EEZ.
But all this International effort overseas and drug interdiction and patrols far beyond our own coasts I think are a stretch. I could easily be convinced to get behind it all IF THE USCG HAD ALL THE MONEY AND FUNDING IT NEEDS AND INFRASTRUCTURE TO SUPPORT MULTIPLE SIMULTANEOUS FORCE PROJECTION.
But they don’t.
Also, it seems the energy detracts from other tasks. Maybe I’m wrong. But my personal experiences tell me otherwise.
Maybe the DEA and FBI should consider a ‘marine branch’ of their services to be in direct and constant operation, focused on one thing. Bust drug importation from the sea.

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There’s always the slim hope that the USCG could go all Marine Electric on the case and actually lay blame where it belongs and fix the problem.

Bouchard B.No.215 sold at Marshall’s Sale for $100.00. Yes, $100.00. More to come. It is cheaper
then paying your bills.