STE. GENEVIEVE, MO (KFVS) - For the first time ever, the U.S. Coast Guard is getting involved inspecting tow boats. The tow boat industry had forever regulated itself, but that's about to change at their request.
"The U.S. Coast Guard and the tow boat industry have come a long way to ensure that the boats are safer and more environmentally friendly," says Lt. Colin Fogarty with the U.S. Coast Guard.
About 61 million tons of cargo passed through St. Louis last year, making it one of the 25 busiest ports in the country. Of course, a lot of that cargo is shipped down the Mississippi River past Cape Girardeau down to Memphis and New Orleans.
"The amount of agriculture, steel, and industry that is shipped down the river is basically incalculable," Fogarty said.
And that's why the Coast Guard and tow boat industry want to ensure that the river is safe.
The Coast Guard has already inspected about 450 boats and plan to look at another 900 in our region. The Coast Guard says only about 1 percent of boats have failed inspection so far, typically because the boat is too old or the fire fighting equipment isn't up to date.
"Fire is one of the biggest things that can go wrong on a boat," says Fogarty. "Every sailor has to be trained to fight fire. We want to make sure the crew can protect themselves and the boat."
Although there have been several high profile accidents on the river, such as the Eggners Ferry Bridge, Fogarty says he expects the inspections to run smoothly.
"The tow boat industry only hires the best professionals," he said. "Although incidents to happen, they are few and far between."