Mister B Has Coast Guard Certification To Carry Six Vehicles or 30,000 Pounds

The Mister B, above, which sat at the Enighed Pond Marine Freight Facility during July waiting for U.S. Coast Guard certification, now must undergo internal modifications to carry its intended load.

The Mister B barge won’t be solving the inter-island transportation problem without a few engineering changes.

The U.S. Coast Guard inspected the 134-foot long, 44-foot wide vessel in mid-July, but only authorized the Mister B to carry around 30,000 pounds or about six vehicles, according to Commander Elmer Emerick, the U.S. Coast Guard Chief of Prevention Operations.

“I just came from the Mister B and she was authorized to carry a little over 30,000 pounds,” said Emerick, who is responsible for inspecting commercial vessels. “That puts you at about six cars or one truck and two cars. It’s by weight, so it can be difficult to be exact.”

The vessel, whose construction was commissioned by Boyson, is intended to carry almost 500,000 pounds of cargo — or more than 50 cars.

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The problem has to do with the vessel specifications, Emerick explained. “If you put all the weight that the owners of the vessel intend to carry, it might hold pretty good,” he said. “But we have to conduct damage stability tests.”

“That puts you on the the worst case scenario, and we at the Coast Guard have to do that,” Emmerick added.

Lack of Compartments
There are basically not enough compartments in the Mister B to be safe in the event of an accident, according to Emerick.

“Take a cruise ship, for example, if it hit a rock, there are so many compartments that it would not flood the whole boat,” he said. “If you don’t make a lot of small compartments, it will flood the whole compartment and the ship. You can see the difference.”

The U.S.C.G. inspection included considering the worst case scenario of the barge hitting a rock, resulting in a hole in the vessel, Emerick explained.

“When we do these evaluations we have to include the possibility of accidents,” he said. “With all the weight on the vessel already and if it was taking on a lot of water, you have to add that weight. The vessel would react — it might sink or list.”

Minor Modifications
Boyson Inc., which commissioned the construction of the barge must now modify the design of Mister B, Emerick said.

“We are saying that they have one big compartment and they need to make that into a few smaller ones,” he said. “That will give them the opportunity to maximize their cargo capacity. They will be able to carry about 50-plus cars.”

“We are not talking about major modifications to the barge,” Emerick added.

The vessel also has an issue with bulkheads, according to Emerick.

“They have the bulkheads, but they have some openings,” he said. “They have to fill them in and that will make a solid bulkhead.”

As soon as the modifications are complete, U.S. Coast Guard officials will reinspect the vessel.

“As soon as they are done, we’ll go back for the inspection,” said Emerick. “They will be able to carry about 490,000 pounds — it will be a huge difference.”

“We’re hoping to inspect the vessel within a week or two,” Emerick said. Boyson co-owner Cheryl Boynes-Jackson was off-island and could not be reached for comment.

U.S. Coast Guard Inspection
Originally, U.S. Coast Guard officials contended they had inspected the vessel. “As far as we know, there is no hold-up,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Carlos Torres, the chief inspector for sector San Juan and the V.I. “The vessel arrived into St. Thomas a number of weeks ago. It showed up with proper certification, which was issued in the states.”

The barge owners, however, needed one additional document before the barge could run — which the U.S. Coast Guard issued last week, according to Torres.

“There was one particular document which they were still missing,” said the chief inspector. “It was issued last week.”

“At this point in time the vessel is O.K. to operate within the parameters of the certificates,” the USCG official added.

As anyone who has recently attempted to travel to St. Thomas via car ferry can attest, which can easily take up to two hours of waiting in line at certain times of the day, the Mister B’s approved capacity of six cars won’t provide much relief.