Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Accidents

The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is located along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico from Apalachee Bay, Florida to Brownsville, Texas. There are many ports, harbors and connecting waterways along the route. It is considered one of the busiest waterways in the country because it connects many of the largest ports in the Gulf.

Tugs and barges are among the most common commercial vessels that utilize the waterway. Fishing and recreational boats share many sections, making it possible for collisions to occur. It is a very heavily traveled waterway with transportation of many tons of products. Work boats and other vessels used by offshore oil platforms also utilize this waterway.

Tug and Barge Mishaps

There are a number of different things that may go wrong on a vessel. Some common occurrences on barges and tug boats include:

  • Fire, explosion
  • Grounding
  • Collision with another vessel
  • Dock and mooring problems
  • Mechanical failures
  • Loading and unloading accidents
  • Slip and falls

When an accident occurs, it may cause severe injuries to employees as well as property damage to the vessel and environmental concerns. A barge that collides with another vessel could sink or lose hazardous cargo or both. Workers aboard the vessel are at risk for various types of injuries including burns, back and neck injuries, head trauma, broken bones, drowning and other serious harm.


  • In 2015, two barges collided sparking a large fire that took hours to extinguish. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, two tugboats were each towing barges that contained highly volatile petroleum products. Three barges were damaged, and the remaining chemicals had to be safely removed.
  • In 2015, a tugboat hit a barge that was docked and ruptured several tanks that contained a gasoline additive. Earlier that year two ships hit each other, but there was reportedly no toxic spill. In these incidents, the channel had to be closed while the vessels were removed and the area cleaned up.
  • In July 2015, four vessels were involved in a large accident on the ICW near the intersection to the Houston Ship Channel.  The accident resulted in a temporary closure, but no significant spill was noted.

Companies are required to ensure the safety and health of their employees. They must provide a safe environment, particularly on vessels. The company needs to make sure that equipment and machinery are in good working order and that employees are trained in proper use. Personal protective equipment should be used, especially when working in dangerous areas such as on docks and decks. Employees should be supervised and must be taught how to handle emergencies.

If a company is negligent and an accident with injuries occurs, an injured employee could take legal action according to the Jones Act. If you were hurt in an accident on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, we can help. Contact us today using the online form provided, and we will get back to you as soon as possible to discuss your case.

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