Tide, tugs dislodge stuck ship
By LEANORA MINAI, Times Staff Writer
A freighter that ran aground on a sandbar near the Sunshine Skyway bridge was nudged into deeper water early Friday and its 50,000 tons of limestone cargo was unloaded at the Port of Tampa.
The Bernardo Quintana, a 750-foot Panamanian vessel, got stuck in the shipping channel when a cargo ship, Antilles III, a 378-foot Bahamian freighter carrying potassium nitrate, collided with it Thursday.
No one was injured, but the U.S. Coast Guard is investigating how the accident happened.
Two Tampa Bay harbor pilots were guiding the ships through the 50-foot-deep, 500-foot-wide shipping channel just west of the Skyway.
As they approached the bridge, heading from the Gulf of Mexico to Tampa, the ships scraped against each other shortly before 2 p.m.
As a routine procedure, those involved in the accident were tested for alcohol and drugs, authorities said.
The Coast Guard would not release the names of the harbor pilots.
Capt. Steve Cropper, chairman of the Tampa Bay Pilots Association, said it appears there was "no gross negligence."
The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation is investigating because the harbor pilots are licensed through the agency.
"They'll investigate the role of the pilots, if they did anything wrong or whatever they did to mitigate something that could have been worse had they not been there," Cropper said.
A spokesman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation could be not reached Friday afternoon.
U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Robert Suddarth said tugboats waited for high tide and then pushed the Bernardo Quintana into water 2 to 3 feet deeper at 1:45 a.m. Friday.
"I don't want to downplay this or anything, but it's much like an accident on the highway," Suddarth said.
The Coast Guard Marine Safety Office is investigating. Lt. Latasha Pennant of the safety office said investigators had not reached any conclusions about the accident Friday.
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