Case: United States v. American Commercial Lines, L.L.C., No. 16-31150, ___ F.3d ___ (5th Cir. 11/7/17).
In July of 2008, nearly 300,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Mississippi River in New Orleans when a tugboat towing an oil-filled barge veered across the river into the path of an ocean-going tanker. American Commercial Lines (“ACL”) owned the tug MEL OLIVER, and bareboat chartered its tug to DRD Towing. DRD then operated the MEL OLIVER under a time charter to ACL. At the time of the collision, the MEL OLIVER, which was pushing ACL’s barge DM-932 fully laden with oil, was operating without a captain who had effectively abandoned the vessel several days earlier. The Steersman left in charge was allegedly sound asleep at the wheel at the time of the collision as he had been working for nearly 36 straight hours. The TINTOMARA, a tanker, collided with the DM-932, causing the barge to break away and ultimately sink in the Mississippi River resulting in the spill of approximately 300,000 gallons of oil into the River. As owner of the leaking barge, ACL was deemed the responsible party under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA ’90”). Continue Reading