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Oil barge fleet hits Wuhan bridge

8 June 2011
At 6:50am on 6 June, a 12,000dwt oil barge fleet sailing downstream from Yueyang to Nanjing collided with the Wuhan No.1 Yangtze Bridge in heavy fog, causing a 1.5-metre long and 0.5-metre deep dent in its No.7 pier. The fleet, measuring 180 metres long and 35 metres wide, consisted of a tug and four empty barges. No casualties were reported.

Witnesses reported a thunder-like bang, while armed policemen guarding the road and rail bridge reportedly felt the vibration as it was hit, but traffic on the road and rail bridge continued as normal. Experts are now assessing the damage to the bridge. Built 54 years ago, Wuhan No.1 Yangtze Bridge has been hit 76 times in its history. The last time was in 1990 when the bridge was hit by a 900-ton crane vessel, from which it emerged largely unscathed.

The barge fleet, owned by Nanjing Oil Transport Company under Sinotrans China Yangtze National Shipping, the largest barge operator in China, was broken on impact and two barges, without power, floated downstream. The emergency response team of Wuhan Maritime Safety Authorities managed to secure them at a nearby anchorage.

At the time of the accident, visibility was below 1,500 metres and Wuhan MSA warned all vessels to find the nearest anchorage. However, the barge fleet was sailing between Wuhan’s No. 1 and No.2 Yangtze bridges, and since the captain thought it was difficult to turn around and anchor the fleet due to its size, he decided to proceed with caution.

There are six Yangtze bridges in the Wuhan section of the river, and two more are under construction.

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