Cruise Ship Diverted due to Tug Boat Accident in New Orleans

July 8, 2013
(Last update, 9:35 a.m., EDT, July 11)After five days of salvage operations, crews removed the sunken tugboat yesterday, clearing the Mississippi River for shipping traffic. An Associated Press story described the task, completed by the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and other local authorities, as "arduous" and "challenging" because of the river's high waters and powerful current.

(Update: 10:15 a.m. EDT, July 8) -- Carnival Senior Cruise Director John Heald posted an update on his Facebook page this morning announcing that the Mississippi River, which had been closed by the United States Coast Guard following a tug boat accident, had reopened, allowing Carnival Elation to reach port in New Orleans on schedule. A Carnival spokesperson confirmed that Elation will arrive on time in New Orleans and depart again this evening, "with no impact on the published itinerary." The embarkation and departures will be pushed back, however, with embarkation taking place between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. and departure set for 7:00 p.m.

And following Carnival Conquest's diversion to Mobile, Alabama, a local news station in Mobile has reported that one of the buses Carnival chartered to take passengers back to New Orleans from Mobile broke down while in transit with 70 of the ship's passengers onboard. A spokesperson for Carnival said the bus broke down approximately one mile from the terminal in Mobile and two spare buses were dispatched immediately. "Half the guests went on each replacement bus and the buses were underway within 15 minutes," the spokesperson said.

(Updated: 10:20 a.m. EDT) -- The sinking of a tug boat has closed part of the Mississippi River and forced at least one cruise ship, Carnival Conquest, to alter its intended course to the port of New Orleans.

John Heald, Carnival Cruise Lines' Senior Cruise Director announced today (July 7) on his Facebook page that the line had made the decision to divert the 3,000-passenger Conquest to Mobile, Alabama, in order to disembark passengers from a 7-night round-trip Caribbean cruise out of New Orleans.

A statement from the line explained: "Yesterday evening we were advised of the closure of the Mississippi River as a result of a sunken vessel which the U.S. Coast Guard was working to locate to determine if it posed a hazard for other vessels transiting the river. We were advised to expect another update at midday today. Given the uncertainty as to the when the river may re-open and the approximate nine hour transit time required from the mouth of the river to New Orleans, it was decided last night to divert the ship to Mobile to ensure we are able to get our guests home as quickly as possible. "Once the ship arrives in Mobile guests will be transferred to New Orleans via motor coach (an approximate two-and-a-half hour distance). "The next voyage is being shortened to a six-day cruise which will depart Mobile on Monday and call at Freeport and Nassau, The Bahamas. Guests sailing on the shortened voyage will receive a one-day pro-rated refund of their cruise fare and have the option of canceling and receiving a full refund if they do not wish to proceed with the voyage. Embarkation for the new six-day cruise will take place in New Orleans and guests will be transferred via motor coach to Mobile to board the ship. "Carnival is encouraging guests scheduled for the new cruise departing Monday to sign up for text alerts by texting CCL1 to CRUISE (278473) to receive updates. "We sincerely apologize to our guests for the inconvenience this unanticipated deviation may cause. Unfortunately, with no indication as to when the river may re-open, we chose the one option that would guarantee we are able to get our guests home as quickly as possible." According to the Web site of local news station Fox 8 Live, the U.S. Coast Guard has closed a ten-mile stretch of the Mississippi River south of New Orleans after a 48-foot tug boat capsized and sank at mile marker 8 in the Mississippi River near Venice, Louisiana. Click here to see Fox 8's location map for the incident.

--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor