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The 836-foot cargo ship Anglo Marie Louise, as provided by VesselFinder, is seen docked in Hamburg, Hansaport, Germany, on Jan. 30, 2013. The ship was formerly known as the Britannia G. A Moran Towing dispatcher in Louisiana says the ship was involved in a near-miss with the Nashville Avenue wharf on March 27, 2024.

The U.S. Coast Guard has opened an investigation into an alleged "near-miss" with the Nashville Avenue Wharf in New Orleans late last month after a large cargo ship lost power.

The Coast Guard also confirmed this week that the probe would include allegations that the same ship, a British-flagged cargo ship named Anglo Marie Louise, was nearly hit by another ship, which had lost power, while it was docked in Convent the day before the New Orleans near-miss.

A Coast Guard spokesman, Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Randisi, confirmed the investigations after The Advocate provided the agency with a social media post with detailed and animated vessel traffic data by a marine dispatcher for Moran Towing Corp.

"The Coast Guard understands the potential magnitude of both situations. We acknowledge they occurred, and we are looking into both instances as appropriate," Randisi wrote in response to questions from the newspaper late last week.

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After the sun sets, a ship heads up the Mississippi River pas the "Fly in New Orleans. (Staff photo by David Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com)

These incidents came to light only recently and in the wake of a catastrophic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore in the morning hours of March 26. The Mississippi River incidents the Coast Guard is investigating allegedly happened on March 26 and 27.

In the Key Bridge crash, a large oceangoing cargo ship lost power and steering and hit one of the steel truss bridge's main support piers. The Maryland crash has raised new concerns about risks on the heavily traveled lower Mississippi River in Louisiana and the number of metal truss bridges that cross the river.

State officials say, however, that the type and size of ship that hit the Key Bridge can't go much past the Crescent City Connection due to lower bridge heights upriver, though other large ships with lower profiles can go farther upriver.

The lower Mississippi has also had catastrophic crashes when ships have lost power and steering.?

On Dec. 14, 1996, the Liberian-flagged bulk cargo ship MV Bright Field lost power and steering while passing under the Crescent City Connection and crashed downriver into the Poydras Avenue wharf in New Orleans.

Hitting between two docked ships, the vessel, which was loaded with corn, swiped along the wharf, causing parts of the Riverwalk shopping mall, a condominium parking garage and the Hilton Riverside Hotel to collapse. The crash led to $20 million in damage and 62 injuries, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.?

In the LinkedIn post about the latest incidents, dispatcher Eric Agena claimed two Moran tugboats, the Lizzy B. Moran and Sommer S., avoided "certain disaster" in New Orleans?on March 27 when they shepherded the southbound Anglo Marie Louise after it lost power and steering near the Nashville Avenue wharf.

Agena wrote that the two tugboats diverted the cargo ship, claiming the incident had "the potential to be catastrophic."

"This goes to highlight the dangers our mariners can face at any given time on the hazardous waters of the lower Mississippi River and is certainly a nod to the excellent training and preparedness of our fleet," Agena wrote.

He added that a day earlier, on March 26, other tugboats prevented a different ship that had lost power from hitting the 836-foot-long Anglo Marie Louise while it was docked at the Convent Marine Terminal in St. James Parish.

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The 836-foot cargo ship Anglo Marie Louise?is seen underway in Anadoluhisari, an area of Istanbul, Turkey, on June 7, 2018, according to?VesselFinder. The ship was formerly known as the Britannia G. A Moran Towing dispatcher in Louisiana says the ship was involved in a near-miss with the Nashville Avenue wharf in New Orleans on March 27, 2024.

Founded in the mid-1800s in New York, Moran Towing, a Connecticut company, handles towing and ship docking and other maritime services across the nation, including along the Mississippi.?The company has an office in Lutcher.

By Wednesday, Moran Towing had not returned a Monday call for comment. Agena, the dispatcher, also couldn't be reached at work and did not return a message left Wednesday at his home number.

The online maritime vessel tracking service?VesselFinder?shows the Anglo Marie Louise was in New Orleans from March 27 to 30.?

The Nashville Avenue wharf complex runs along about 1.3 miles of the Mississippi in New Orleans and is upriver of the Crescent City Connection. The wharf handles heavy-lift and the most complex kinds of cargo.?

The Convent Marine Terminal in eastern St. James Parish bills itself as "one?of the largest terminals on the U.S. Gulf Coast" and the only bulk terminal in the region with "direct rail access for ocean going shipments."

Located along the Canadian National rail line and River Road, the terminal handles liquids and other bulk shipments, including coal, petroleum coke,?and some kinds of rock.?

In response to questions, Randisi, the Coast Guard spokesman, said that while the incidents are under investigation, he could not comment on any of the facts alleged by Agena and that the agency has not made a determination about how serious these events were.

"We can’t comment regarding incident severity until we obtain and dissect all facts surrounding each particular event," he said.

But he added the help from the tugboats and "effective communication prevented these incidents from becoming more significant cases."

"These events point to the professionalism of the local maritime community and industry at large and we appreciate their diligence and commitment to safety and security on such a vital waterway as the Lower Mississippi River," Randisi added.

Editor's Note: This story was updated Wednesday, April 17, 2024, to correct the name of the Anglo Marie Louise.

David J. Mitchell can be reached at dmitchell@theadvocate.com or followed on Twitter, @newsiedave.

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