PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The 100-foot-long, rusted barge went down in a gush of air bubbles in early fall and has been stuck in the muck of the Providence River ever since, marked by its listing crane piercing through the water.
Now, records obtained by Target 12 indicate the vessel’s owner and the U.S. Coast Guard were familiar combatants for several years over issues ranging from the sunken barge to violations that provoked stiff fines and penalties.
Mark Ginalski said emergency crews could have prevented his barge from going down last October.
“They watched it sink for three hours,” Ginalski said. “I had working pumps on the barge. I could’ve pumped it out.”
There were no injuries, citations or fines connected to the October incident, and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) determined the sinking did not pollute the water.
A Coast Guard official told Target 12 in December that since the barge is not a navigation hazard or considered dangerous, the agency does not have the power to force the owner to raise it.
The owner is required to file a plan with the Captain of the Port (COTP) before salvaging the barge, according to the Coast Guard.
Documents obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request in January indicate “the crane barge has an existing COTP order on it” from April 2015, and another COTP order dating back to December 2014.
The details about what prompted those orders have not been released.
According to a 2011 complaint filed by the federal government against Ginalski, he was ordered to pay just over $67,000 in fines and civil penalties from a number of maritime incidents dating back to 2005.
One of the violations, according to the filing, was “operating a commercial tug-boat with a malfunctioning fuel line and without a proper license” in 2005.
In 2006, the complaint alleged Ginalski “relocated a damaged and partially submerged vessel, causing an oil/gasoline leak.”
The document said Ginalski “failed to respond” to requests for payment from the Coast Guard.
Ginalski entered into a payment plan with the government within weeks of the 2011 complaint.
Ginalski said he does plan to salvage the barge that sank last fall “when it’s warmer.”
“My lawyer told me not to say too much,” Ginalski said.