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Two tugboats stranded several miles off Sabine Pass, Coast Guard pushing for fix

"It's an all-time low emotionally," the crew member said. "We're not really safe out here."

SABINE PASS, Texas — The US Coast Guard is trying to figure out a way to keep the crew of two tugboats safe while stranded at sea, five miles from Sabine Pass. 

One of the crew members on board spoke anonymously with 12News. 

The crew member said the tugboats, which are connected to barges, have been sitting there anchored since November 26.

Bouchard Transportation Company, who owns the tugboats is reportedly having financial issues, meaning they can't pay for the two vessels to dock according to the man on board. 

The crew member also tells 12News that the crew has not been paid since January 1. 

So, two weeks ago the crew member says he contacted the Coast Guard and threatened to abandon the tugboat he's on.

"It's an all-time low emotionally," the crew member said. "We're not really safe out here."

Days later on February 4, two members of each crew decided to leave by paying $1100, to get on a launch boat and return to land according to the crew member.

The man aboard also says the remaining ten people aboard the M/V Danielle M. Bouchard and the M/V Kim M. Bouchard have been working 35 straight days, a week more than a normal shift.    

After members of the crew told the U.S. Coast Guard on, Monday, February 10, 2020, that they were threatening to abandon the two tugboat and barge units the Coast Guard issued "Captain of the Port" orders for both the M/V Danille M. Bouchard and the M/V Kim M. Bouchard.

MORE | "Captain of the Port" order for the Motor Vessel Kim M. Bouchard

MORE | "Captain of the Port" order for the  Motor Vessel Danielle M. Bouchard

The orders notified the captain, or master, of each tug as well as the owner of both tugs, Bouchard Transportation, that the crew had threatened abandon the vessels while at anchorage which is a violation of federal law.

12News spoke with Coast Guard public affairs officer Lt. John Edwards, with District 8, over the phone Thursday.   

"It addresses the safety issues concerning some of the Bouchard vessels in the area. Ensuring that Bouchard knows that those vessels need to be properly manned," Edwards said. 

The two orders push Bouchard to find a solution, but Edwards says the company hasn't come up with a fix to move the vessels.

12News reached out to the company via phone and email, but didn't receive a reply. 

With the captain of the port orders, the Coast Guard is requiring the remaining crews to stay aboard.  

"This prevents the company from abandoning the type of barge, an anchor, which poses an unacceptable risk to other vessels and the environment to the waterway," Edwards said. 

Since Monday, the Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service-Port Arthur has been contacting both tugboats daily.

"The members of the Coast Guard's Vessel Traffic Service, or VTS, will do daily check ins with the vessel to ensure the safety of the crew and to ensure their needs are being met," Edwards said. "The Coast Guard's priority is the safety of these mariners."

The crew member who spoke with 12News says there's no issue with food, water or supplies as of Thursday. 

This is happening to other vessels across the country as well according to the person on board.

Lt. Edwards says the Coast Guard will remain a part of this issue until it's resolved.

"The captain of the port orders will stay in place until the issues outlined in them are remediated," Edwards said.

The person on board is calling on the local marine industry to find a way for these tugboats to dock, so the crew no longer is forced to stay out at sea.

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