Foehn - Nogent english summary

On the 26th of August, 2004, a convoy moving upstream hit the metal bridge floor of the Beaulieu Bridge, in the town of Mériot in Aube, France, and pushed the bridge floor over approximately 25 centimetres. The convoy was made up of the "Foehn" motor barge propelling the "Davy" barge loaded with containers from Le Havre, to be delivered to the Nogent-sur-Seine port. The bridge was damaged to the point of being unavailable and still cannot be used. A diversion was established to reach the hamlet of Beaulieu as the bridge was the only access route. The same convoy had hit the Villiers Bridge earlier, causing limited damage.

On the 8th of September 2004, the accident investigation was entrusted to the BEA-TT. It appears that the convoy’s total height above the water line was higher than the height authorized on that section and that the bargeman was aware of it. The investigation also identified that the allowance for unencumbered height was too limited. Simple straightforward precautions would have avoided the accident. It would also seem that the deformation of the container, as a result of having hit the Villiers Bridge, had increased the height above the waterline, which in turn was responsible for the accident at the Beaulieu Bridge.

This accident highlights the vulnerability of bridges exposed to impacts from inland waterways push-tow convoys, and how important it is for all parties involved to comply with the rules applicable to heights above the waterline, whether ship-owners, bargemen or infrastructure managers. The risk of impinging on maximum heights is made worse by the development of container hauling traffic and the recent appearance on the market of higher containers -hi-cubes.

The report recommended that the infrastructure manager (Voies navigables de France - VNF) work out with ship-owners what precautions need to be taken to guarantee that convoys are no higher than authorised heights. The infrastructure manager should improve his knowledge of bridge characteristics and formalise procedures for any waiver to limitations on heights above the waterline. The report also recommended to the central French administration in charge of inland waterways - Direction générale de la mer et des transports, the DGTM to launch a study to draft rules on the heights of push-tow convoys acceptable for navigation on the different sections of the waterways.

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