Casualty Briefs

Smoke billows from the ro-ro Hoegh Xiamen
Smoke billows from the ro-ro Hoegh Xiamen
Smoke billows from the ro-ro Hoegh Xiamen on June 4 after the ship caught fire while moored at Blount Island

Crewman missing, presumed dead after falling from ship off Texas
A 27-year-old mariner sailing aboard the tanker Sagami is missing and presumed dead after falling into the Gulf of Mexico near Sabine Pass, Texas. 

The victim, whose name and nationality were not identified, worked aboard the 557-foot tanker registered in Panama. He fell overboard at about 1906 on Dec. 2 when the ship was about 29 miles from shore, the U.S. Coast Guard said. The vessel was inbound to the Port of Beaumont. 

“(He) was rigging an accommodation ladder when he fell overboard,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Paige Hause said. “The individual was sighted in the water and life rings were tossed (to) him after he fell in.”

The mariner was wearing an orange life jacket and coveralls with reflective tape. The Coast Guard searched for the crewman for more than 36 hours using two ships and four aircraft. The effort covered more than 2,800 square miles.

“The Coast Guard completed an exhaustive search using all available search and rescue assets,” said Petty Officer 1st Class John McKendrick, Sector Houston-Galveston command duty officer. “Cases like these are hard and our thoughts and prayers are with this mariner’s family, friends and shipmates.”

A spokesman for MTI Network, an international crisis communications firm, identified the shipowner and manager as M.T. Sagami. Norway-based Odfjell Tankers also lists the vessel as part of its fleet.

“The owner and manager wish to express their deepest sympathies to the family of the seafarer,” said Nick Roe of MTI Network Asia Ltd. “Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time and help and support is being provided.”


Safety alert offers details of Jacksonville ro-ro fire
Crew aboard the 600-foot Hoegh Xiamen recognized the ship was on fire at about 1545 on June 4, while the ship was tied up at Blount Island in Jacksonville, Fla. A recent Coast Guard safety alert offers new details about the fire that burned for more than a week. 

The alert, issued Nov. 30, suggests investigators are looking at the vehicles loaded on the ship as a likely cause of the fire. The Coast Guard identified “vehicles leaking fluids, personal goods and combustibles stored within vehicles, and the failure to protect batteries from short circuiting” as possible causal factors. 

Photos taken aboard Hoegh Xiamen on decks not burned in the fire show vehicles leaking fuel, cardboard, paint cans with paint still inside, and live ammunition inside vehicles already loaded on the ship. The official cause of the fire has not been released.

“Within three months of the aforementioned incident, a similar ro-ro (roll-on/roll-off) vessel suffered a vehicle fire on board while in Sector Jacksonville’s area of responsibility,” the alert said, without adding details or identifying the ship. “Although this fire was not as severe as the incident in June (2020), it is likely due to the same contributing factors based on initial findings.”

The alert urged shippers, managers and other companies involved with moving vehicles over sea to adhere to international rules aimed at preventing shipboard fires. Safety actions include disconnecting batteries to protect against short circuiting, removing combustible materials and checking for leaks before loading.


New NTSB digest covers latest casualty lessons
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has published its Safer Seas Digest 2019, offering lessons learned from more than two dozen maritime casualties. 

The annual digest, released in December, details findings by agency investigators. It uses photos, diagrams and maps to explain what went wrong, and in many cases highlights ways to avoid similar casualties. 

Incidents in the 2019 edition include the Stretch Duck 7 capsizing in July 2018 that killed 17, and the August 2017 collision between the U.S. Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain and tanker Alnic MC near Singapore that left 10 sailors dead. 

Insufficient oversight was the most common factor in casualties covered in 2019, including the McCain collision. Fatigue was another leading factor and it also was cited in the McCain incident. 

“Fatigue impacts every aspect of human performance, including decision-making, reaction time and comprehension, all of which affect seafarers’ ability to safely navigate,” the digest noted. “Having fatigued operators in critical positions when navigating a busy channel or conducting other higher-risk operations increases the probability of errors that lead to accidents.”

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the goal of the document, in 2019 and every year, is to provide critical safety information to the broader maritime industry.

“With every investigation, we learn new safety lessons to prevent or mitigate future losses — but only when marine stakeholders at all levels of the industry apply these lessons,” he said.

Safer Seas Digest 2019 is available at

By Professional Mariner Staff