The ACBL 3111, a loaded hopper barge pushed by the uninspected towing vessel Natures Way Commander, collided with the moored U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deck barge CE-858 at about 1630 on February 1, 2012.
About 30 minutes before the collision, the Natures Way Commander was pushing six loaded hopper barges, arranged two wide by three long, toward the Port Allen Lock from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The pilot operating the Natures Way Commander contacted the Port Allen Lock lockmaster by radio to request entry to the lock for transit to the Mississippi River. The lockmaster recommended that the pilot hold up because of the potential effects of a rainstorm approaching from the west. The pilot agreed and reduced his speed to delay entry into the lock.
As the rainfall intensity and wind speed increased, the pilot’s visibility became impaired and he attempted to stop his vessel and barges. However, about 1630 the starboard lead barge collided with the Corps deck barge CE-858, which was moored on the starboard (southwest) side of the waterway. According to the pilot, he could not communicate with two deckhands stationed at the head of the tow on the port and starboard sides because of the noise of the heavy rainfall.