ATB, bulk carrier sustain serious damage in Gulf of Mexico collision

An articulated tug-barge and a bulk ship collided in the Gulf of Mexico in clear weather, causing significant damage to both vessels. Each side blamed the other for violating the rules of the road.

The ATB’s starboard anchor ended up lodged in a ballast tank aboard the ship, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The Crowley Maritime tugboat Courage and tank barge 650-5 were westbound in the Gulf when the barge struck the port side of the dry bulk carrier Marina Wave on Nov. 22, 2010, said Chief Warrant Officer John Meyers, a Coast Guard investigator at Morgan City, La.

The accident happened at 2218 about 70 miles south of Plaquemines Parish, La. The U.S.-flagged Courage and fuel barge were sailing in ballast from Tampa, Fla., to Corpus Christi, Texas. Marina Wave, registered in Cyprus, was southbound from New Orleans en route to the Panama Canal with a load of soybeans.

Both sides claim that the other violated the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, or ColRegs. In a civil lawsuit attempting to have Marina Wave arrested in Louisiana, Crowley and its affiliates said the bulk carrier was unseaworthy and was operated negligently.

The collision was caused by Marina Wave‘s “failure to navigate prudently and with reasonable care, and to observe and follow (ColRegs),” the plaintiffs said in their filing.

The 9,280-hp Courage was operated by Intrepid Ship Management Inc., based in Jacksonville, Fla. The owner is Vessel Management Services Inc. Both are units of Crowley Maritime, which is listed as desponent owner, a term normally used to refer to the original charterer.

The 738-foot Marina Wave was operated by Teo Shipping Corp. of Greece. The registered owner is Arktis Carrier Shipping Co. of Cyprus.

In a statement to Professional Mariner, Crowley specified the errors allegedly committed by Marina Wave as “failure to use all available means to determine risk of collision, such as utilizing long-range radar scanning to obtain early warning of risk of collision; failure to take early and substantial action to avoid collision; failure to sound a danger signal, and failure on behalf of the officer of the watch on the Marina Wave to call the master of his vessel to the bridge.”

In a response to the lawsuit, the Marina Wave interests alleged a ColRegs violation by the tug — “specifically the failure of the ATB Courage and those in charge of her navigation to stay clear of the Marina Wave, since the two vessels were in a crossing situation, with the Marina Wave as the •stand-on’ or privileged vessel and the ATB Courage the •give-way’ or burdened vessel.”

They claim that Courage was operated by “incompetent personnel” who failed to maintain a proper lookout and “failed to maintain a proper VHF-FM radio watch.” They said the ATB was “improperly lighted,” while all of Marina Wave‘s navigation lights were “on and burning brightly.”

The Courage companies deny the allegation.

Courage is 130 feet long and the 650-5 is 587 feet. When linked, their total length is about 700 feet.

Marina Wave departed the Mississippi River on a course of 152°, Meyers said. Courage was on a westbound course of 275°. The weather was clear with good visibility of 13 nm. Winds were from the southeast at 15 knots, and seas were about 3 feet. Courage approached Marina Wave‘s port side when the collision happened, he said.

Marina Wave sustained extensive damage to her port side between holds 6 and 7,” Meyers said. “This damage included holed and buckled hull/deck plating (and) damage to hand rail fittings and framing.”

He said the fuel barge had a hull puncture aft of the starboard hawse pipe, damaged framing and a missing starboard anchor, which was “found in the ballast tank of the Marina Wave.”

Crowley’s lawsuit specified further that there was damage to the barge’s “internal strength members and ground tackle.” The lawsuit claimed the collision caused at least $1 million in damage to the barge.

Teo and Arktis said the total cost of the damage to their bulk ship would be more than $4 million.

Courage was not damaged, and there were no injuries or pollution, Meyers said.

Masters of both vessels supplied statements confirming “that all equipment on the vessels were operating as designed,” Meyers said in late January. “As to the questions of communications, right of way and manning, the investigation is still ongoing.”

Mark Miller, a Crowley spokesman, said Courage‘s captain and an able seaman were acting as lookouts at the time of the collision. He did not know if there had been any radio contact between the vessels prior to the accident.

Teo Shipping officials declined to be interviewed.

The barge 650-5 went to a Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard for repairs and is back in service, Crowley said. Marina Wave, which berthed at Violet, La., had its repairs completed Jan. 23.

Dom Yanchunas

By Professional Mariner Staff