Marine Safety Bulletin: Barge/Rail Collision Risk

USCG Sector Upper Mississippi River Marine Safety Information Bulletin # 08-21

Barge/Rail Collision Risk

Approximately 45 known areas on the UMR and Illinois River pose a risk for barge/rail collisions due to the close proximity between the rail right of ways and the river bank. Where rails are located near the river’s edge, vessels are able to push in to an extent that part of the vessel/tow is in dangerous proximity to the rail. Barge encroachment poses a serious risk to both vessels, trains, crews, the environment, and nearby communities. On November 14, 2021, during normal water conditions, an incident between rail and barge resulted in a train derailment, oil spill, and damage to rail and vessel equipment.

This risk can be mitigated by vessel operators being vigilant when selecting where they push vessels into the river bank during all water conditions. The approximately 45 known areas of concern (see attached consolidated graphic) are marked with caution areas on both printed and electronic versions of the Inland River Electronic Navigation Charts (IENC). These caution areas are accompanied by a warning noting the risk of collision between trains and vessels, and/or rail bed embankment erosion due to the close proximity between the railroad tracks and the waterway.

Sector UMR urges all vessel operators to review the IENC and the WAP for their intended operating areas to identify river bank locations to avoid pushing in at, as well as other potential hazards, as part of their voyage planning procedures prior to operation.

Operators are reminded that Title 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 207.300(m)(2)(ii) directly prohibits the mooring of craft directly to railroad tracks or the riverbank in vicinity of railroad tracks. Violation of this regulation can result in enforcement action being taken against the operator’s Merchant Mariner Credential as well as a civil penalty against the operating company.


Captain of the Port

U.S. Coast Guard