Two people died and two others were injured after a ship’s mooring line snapped at the Port of Longview in Washington state.
The accident occurred at about 0145 on June 28 as the Panama-flagged bulk carrier Ansac Splendor was taking on cargo. The ship was reportedly shifting along the berth to facilitate loading when a spring line parted.
One segment recoiled toward the dock, where it hit 34-year-old longshoreman Byron Jacobs, who died at the scene. Two others on the dock, a security guard and another longshoreman, survived their injuries.
The line also hit Ansac Splendor’s chief officer, Pingshan Li, 41, of China, who was aboard the ship at the time. Li suffered critical injuries and died at a Vancouver, Wash., hospital later that day.
Federal, state and local authorities are investigating the incident. The U.S. Coast Guard declined to comment during the inquiry.
“The goal of our investigation is to find out what happened so we can prevent similar tragedies at this port and the other ports along the Columbia River,” said Capt. Thomas Griffitts, commanding officer of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Portland.
The 581-foot Ansac Splendor arrived in Longview at 0558 on June 27 after offloading cement downriver at the Port of Portland. The vessel docked at Berth 5 and was loading petroleum coke when the spring line parted.
There was not a pilot on board at the time, and no tugboats were assisting during the shifting maneuver. The ship remained in port until July 3 when it left at about 1630.
“Defendants were repositioning and re-securing the vessel. Plaintiff’s decedent, a longshoreman, was attending the vessel at the berth,” states a lawsuit filed July 2 on behalf of Jacobs’ widow in U.S. District Court in Washington’s Western District.
“The spring line suddenly broke under tension and struck plaintiff’s decedent and others at 700 feet per second, killing plaintiff’s decedent and a crewman, and injured others,” the suit continues, adding that Jacobs suffered “great pain.”
The suit, which seeks $16 million in damages, names shipowner SE Harmony Corp. of Taipei, Taiwan, and ship manager Bright Charter Shipping Ltd. as defendants. Neither company could be reached for comment.
Incidents involving severed mooring lines can be extremely dangerous due to the “snap-back effect.” This refers to the rapid release of tension stored in the ropes when they suddenly break, according to a 2015 report issued by the London-based Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF).
“The two ends of the line recoil or snap back toward or past their secured ends. When a synthetic mooring line breaks, the snap-back effect can be extremely powerful and the rope ends may reach a high velocity as they recoil,” the report stated. “Anyone standing within the snap-back zone at either end of the line risks serious injury or death.”
Jacobs was a fifth-generation longshoreman and longtime member of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21. The Longview, Wash., resident is survived by his wife and three children.
ILWU Local 21 President Jake Ford said the incident marked a tragic day on the waterfront. “Byron was an active member of the union, loved his work and will be incredibly missed,” Ford said.
Authorities closed the Port of Longview after the accident. Ansac Splendor remained in Longview for nearly a week afterward before departing for Australia.