COPY-Sunken barge disrupts Mobile's main ship channel

MOBILE, Ala. The Coast Guard reopened the Port of Mobile to restricted traffic today. The waterway's main ship channel was shut down after a barge carrying about 16-hundred tons of limestone sank and the channel had to be closed Saturday to allow divers to conduct a salvage operation.

Coast Guard officials said vessels with a draft of 43 feet or less are allowed to move through the channel, which is 45 feet deep, and all mariners in the area are advised to move at the slowest speed possible.The barge, owned by Cincinnati-based Excell Marine, sank a week ago. The Coast Guard is investigating what caused it to go down in the middle of the channel.The Press-Register reported today that at least 18 vessels were stranded inside the port or offshore because of the channel's closing.Some barges and supply boats that don't require the deep-draft channel could navigate areas around it, but large ocean-going ships were forced to postpone their voyages.

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