On July 12, 2021 at about 3:23 a.m., the Jalma Topic, a bulk carrier with 20 people aboard was moving up the Lower Mississippi River, headed to a grain terminal near New Orleans. The vessel suddenly lost the ability to steer and crashed into a stationary barge that was being used for office space. No injuries were reported in the accident, but it caused more than $6 million in damages.
The Jalma Topic was headed upriver at about 9.1 knots (about 10.5 mph) when the pilot noticed that the rudder was stuck at 10 degrees port and not responding. He did what he could to warn the three people aboard the office barge and slow down the vessel, but he was unable to prevent the crash.
A pair of dispatchers, one line handler and one for tugs, and a cleaner were aboard the barge at the time. The Jalma Topic's pilot previously worked for the tug company and knew that people were working on the vessel, and not monitoring the necessary frequencies to hear the distress call. He called the New Orleans Vessel Traffic Center urging them to help get the workers out.
One of the dispatchers was able to get up from his desk but only made it a few steps before the ship struck the barge. Still, no one was injured when the Jalma Topic hit the barge at going 6.2 knots (7.1 mph).
The Jalma Topic's bow only sustained some $215,000 in damages, which was good news for the vessel valued at $14.7 million. The office barge saw the worst of the damage. The superstructure and hull were damaged. The electrical, plumbing and communications systems were severed. The HVAC and mooring systems and all gangways and catwalks were damaged or destroyed. After everything was assessed, the damage tally reached $6 million.
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