Bow of reefer ship tears gaping hole into side of bulk carrier in collision in Caribbean Sea


A bulk carrier sustained heavy damage after being T-boned by a reefer ship in the Caribbean Sea about 60 miles north of Haiti.

The 492-foot Timor Stream ran bow-first into the 557-foot Seagate at about 0545 on March 10. Timor Stream’s bow bore a massive gash in Seagate’s hull and superstructure and punctured one of the ship’s fuel tanks.

The captain of a Florida-bound private yacht that arrived to help, Capt. Jeff Ridgway, said the damaged sustained by Seagate was like nothing he’d ever seen before.

“One whole side was opened up and you could see inside the vessel,” Ridgway said. “You could see a bulletin board with notes pegged up.”

The U.K.-flagged Seagate took on water after the accident, but was later stabilized, said the U.S. Coast Guard, which responded to the accident. The Liberia-flagged Timor Stream suffered minimal damage in the collision.

Maritime investigators in Liberia and the U.K. are conducting a joint inquiry into the accident, which occurred before dawn in clear weather and calm seas, according to Nick Hughes, spokesman for the U.K.’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

Hughes declined to discuss preliminary findings or name any factors that led up to the incident. He said the report likely won’t be finished until the fall.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman in Miami said the agency was not investigating the incident because it occurred in international waters.

All 21 of Seagate’s crewmembers were accounted for after the episode, including 18 crewmembers who loaded onto lifeboats and three who remained aboard the vessel. At least one crewmember who fell overboard during the evacuation was rescued by Ridgway’s 171-foot private yacht Battered Bull, which arrived about 30 minutes after the distress call.

Crew on Battered Bull, which was traveling from St. Bartholomew to Palm Beach, Fla., when the accident occurred, monitored both vessels on radar and AIS systems prior to the accident. In that time, crew never heard either ship make contact over radio.

“Leading up to collision, we heard nothing on the radio,” Ridgway said.

“We didn’t hear anything on the radio to give any indication of who was doing what and who was aware of it … on channel 13 or channel 16,” he added. “I’m sure between those two would have heard if trying to make passing arrangements.”

Ridgway said he and other crew made contact with the U.S. Coast Guard and Seagate’s captain, letting him know they were on the way.

The Coast Guard cutter Venturous arrived on scene about four hours after the accident. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and plane monitored the situation from the air.

Seagate is managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime. The company did not respond to e-mail requests seeking comment. Contact information for Toko Unyu K.K., of Japan, which manages Timor Stream, was not available.

Additional details about the accident, including potential environmental impacts from the punctured fuel tank, were not available.

Coast Guard Public Affairs in Miami did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment on the issue.

After the accident, Seagate was towed to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for repairs, Hughes said. Timor Stream underwent minor repairs in Trinidad.

By Professional Mariner Staff