MV Delta Mariner

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Delta Mariner docked at Port Canaveral (08PD-3497).jpg
Delta Mariner docked at Port Canaveral, Florida, 2008
Name: Delta Mariner
Owner: Foss Maritime[1]
Operator: Foss Maritime[1]
Port of registry: Falling Waters, West Virginia[2]
Laid down: October 26, 1998[2]
Launched: December 16, 1999[4]
In service: May 18, 2000[2]
General characteristics
Type: Roll-on/roll-off cargo ship
Length: 312 ft (95.1 m)[5]
Beam: 84 ft (25.6 m)[5]
Height: 50 ft (15.2 m)[6]
Draft: 8 ft (2.4 m)[5]
Installed power:
  • 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph) (max. ocean)
  • 5 kn (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph) (max. river)[6]
Crew: 16 + river pilots[8]

Delta Mariner is a cargo ship operated by Foss Maritime for United Launch Alliance (ULA). Its primary role is transporting components for the ULA Atlas V and Delta rockets from the manufacturer, located in Decatur, Alabama, to launch facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The ship is designed for shallow inland waterways as well as the open ocean and is capable of carrying up to three 160-foot (49 m) long Delta IV Common Booster Cores.[9][10] Some cargos carried by the Mariner were formerly transported by Russian transport aircraft from the manufacturer to the launch site.[11]


Completed rocket stages and other components are transported by truck approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the Decatur manufacturing facility to the dock on the Tennessee River and driven directly onto the ship.[3]

From Decatur, Delta Mariner uses two routes to the Gulf of Mexico. The first route takes the vessel downstream on the Tennessee River to the Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway, south to the Tombigbee River, and into Mobile Bay and the Gulf, a distance of about 550 miles (890 km).[3] The current route takes the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers downstream, south on the Mississippi River, and into the Gulf, more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km).[12]

From the ULA plant, Delta Mariner may travel around the Florida peninsula to Cape Canaveral, a 2,100-mile (3,400 km) trip; or through the Panama Canal to Vandenberg, a three week journey which covers around 5,000 miles (8,000 km).[3][13][14]



On August 7, 2001, Delta Mariner ran aground on a sandbar in the Tennessee River during its initial docking attempt at Decatur. This was Mariner‍ '​s first arrival at the dock since its launch.[15] The vessel was freed by a tugboat about an hour after the incident.[16]

Bridge collision[edit]

On January 26, 2012, around 20:10 CST, Delta Mariner struck the Eggner Ferry Bridge, which crosses Kentucky Lake near Murray and Cadiz, Kentucky. There were no injuries on the ship or bridge, and, while Delta Mariner was "not severely damaged" and the cargo of Atlas and Centaur stages was undamaged,[13][16] the collision destroyed a 300-foot (91 m) section of the bridge.[12][17]

According to Foss Maritime's spokesman, this was on the regular route taken by the vessel.[16] It is not known exactly what caused the incident, but U.S. Coast Guard officials state the vessel was operating in a recreational channel at the time of the collision, rather than the shipping channel which offers greater bridge clearance.[18] Foss representatives maintain that the bridge's channel navigation lights were not operational, though Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock stated this should not have been a significant factor in the incident and KYTC spokesman Keith Todd said he believes most of the lights were functioning at the time.[19][20]

The ship remained anchored at the bridge for some time[clarification needed] after the incident took place so that salvage plans could be developed and equipment moved into place. Salvage operations were led by T&T Bisso of Houston, with assistance from local and regional companies.[21] During February 4–5, divers worked to remove debris which caught underwater on the Mariner‍ '​s hull.[22] Once the underwater debris were removed and the vessel regained movement, it was planned, as of 5 February 2012, to be relocated downriver to a safe harbor on Kentucky Lake where cranes were to remove the remaining debris from the forward hull.[22] As of 5 February 2012, the Coast Guard estimated this removal could take several weeks.[22][dated info]



  1. ^ a b c "Delta Mariner - IMO 9198501". via Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Delta Mariner (0038725)". ABS Record. American Bureau of Shipping. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  3. ^ a b c d Salazar, Larry (August 6, 2001). "Delta Mariner Arrival Will Launch Boeing Delta IV on Final Leg of Journey" (Press release). Boeing. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Boeing sets sail with world's newest rocket ship" (Press release). Boeing via Spaceflight Now. December 16, 1999. Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Allen, Laurie K (April 7, 2004). "Small Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Harbor Activities at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA" (PDF). Federal Register 69 (67): p. 18354. Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Gossett, Dave (October 24, 2008). "Delta Mariner sails the Ohio River". Herald-Star. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Authority to Construct/Permit to Operate No. 10846-02" (PDF). Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  8. ^ Hatton, Angie (January 31, 2012). "Delta Mariner salvage plan moves ahead with assistance from Murray company". Murray Ledger & Times. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  9. ^ Saxer, Robert K; Knauf, James M; Drake, Linda R; Portanova, Pete L (March–April 2002). "Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Systems" (PDF). Project Manager 31 (2). 
  10. ^ Cox, Martin (January 27, 2012). "MV Delta Mariner Rocket Carrier Destroys Kentucky Bridge". Maritime Matters. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
  11. ^ Bergin, Chris (July 30, 2011). "NASA Juno FRR completed – Atlas and Delta share a ride on the Mariner". Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Associated Press (January 27, 2012). "Ship carrying rocket parts, hits Kentucky bridge". MSNBC. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Bergin, Chris (January 28, 2012). "No impact to two ULA missions following Delta Mariner accident". NASA Spaceflight. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  14. ^ Bauer, Steve (November 15, 2011). "Delta Mariner offloads launch components at Vandenberg". Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  15. ^ Salazar, Larry (August 7, 2001). "Boeing Announces Decatur Docking by Delta Mariner to be Delayed" (Press release). Boeing. Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  16. ^ a b c Lovan, Dylan; Barrouquere, Brett (January 27, 2012). "Eggner Ferry Bridge Hit By Delta Mariner Ship In Kentucky". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
  17. ^ Fleischauer, Eric (January 27, 2012). "Decatur-based Delta Mariner hits Kentucky bridge". Decatur Daily. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
  18. ^ Kenning, Chris (January 28, 2012). "Ship in wrong channel tears through Kentucky Lake bridge, officials say". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  19. ^ Cline-Thomas, Aundrea (January 28, 2012). "New Details Emerge About Bridge Collapse". Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  20. ^ Associated Press (January 27, 2012). "Ship carrying rocket parts hits Kentucky bridge". USA Today. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
  21. ^ Hatton, Angie (February 4, 2012). "Coast Guard OKs ship salvage plan". Murray Ledger & Times. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  22. ^ a b c Wyrick, Arnold (February 5, 2012). "Crews work to free the Delta Mariner". KFVS. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 

External links[edit]