A U.S. Navy contract barge bound from Jacksonville to the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, spilled 22 shipping containers into the Atlantic Ocean, the Coast Guard said Tuesday, sending household goods, aerosols, refrigerant gasses and food into the water.
The mishap, involving the Atlantic Trader barge, happened early Monday afternoon 18 miles east of Key Biscayne, the Coast Guard said. The boat tugging the barge, the Spence, notified the Coast Guard. Air and sea crews dispatched to the site reported seeing four or five containers floating in the area, and the Coast Guard said Tuesday night that efforts were underway to recover them. It was unknown whether the other containers could be salvaged.
The spill “posed no threat,” said Coast Guard spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo Tuesday evening. But the Coast Guard said it was working with a variety of federal and local agencies to “mitigate potential threats to safe navigation, the marine environment, and responders involved in the salvage effort."
The containers held a variety of items, including “combustible liquids, possibly diesel fuel,” compressed oxygen and carbon dioxide, aerosols used for refrigerants and fire extinguishers, as well as paint, household goods, food and other perishable items, Fajardo said.
By about 10:15 p.m. Monday, three tug boats had maneuvered the tug and barge to Port Everglades “with some containers still hanging over the side, and some container stacks fallen over like dominoes,” a Coast Guard statement said.
The Coast Guard said the cause of the accident was under investigation.
While the Pentagon occasionally has used cargo aircraft to bring perishable supplies to the base since it opened the detention center for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo in 2002, the 91-foot Atlantic Trader has long been U.S. Navy's primary resupply method.
It makes trips to the outpost in southeast Cuba about twice a month bringing everything from automobiles and bicycles belonging to sailors and their families to the alcohol on the shelves of the Navy commissary, Irish pub and officer’s club.
Among the federal and local agencies involved in the salvage effort are Port Everglades, The Broward County Sheriff's Office, Broward County Fire and Rescue, Port Everglades Pilots, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.