Containership strikes marina after blown fuse disables its propulsion and steering systems

Rio Haina, a 252-foot containership, looks out of place among the pleasure craft tied up at the Miami Beach Marina. The ship damaged two boats but no one was injured.  (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

The U.S. Coast Guard said an unwise electrical-wiring configuration caused a containership to lose power and smash into the Miami Beach Marina.

The outbound 252-foot Rio Haina had just exited the mouth of the Miami River and transited Biscayne Bay on June 22 when the power failure disabled all of its propulsion and steering systems. The ship drifted out of the channel, rammed the marina’s break wall head-on and damaged two pleasure boats.

The accident, which occurred at about 0100 at Government Cut, left the containership stuck in the concrete break wall, with its bow aground in mud and sand. At the next high tide, tugboats from P&L Towing and Transportation freed the vessel and towed it to a nearby dock, the Coast Guard said.

Lt. j.g. Michelle Schopp, senior investigator for Sector Miami, said the Panamanian-flagged cargo ship went out of control because a single fuse blew, cutting power to the main switchboard and disabling all electrical systems. Inspections by the Coast Guard and the classification society Bureau Veritas revealed that all of the fuses were interconnected, so that if one fuse blew, three generators would be disabled.

“The loss of power was due to the wiring of the fuses from the generators to the switchboard,†Schopp said. “They had fuses coming out of the three major generators. When one of the fuses went out, they weren’t independent of each other, so they all went out and it shut down all power.â€

Rio Haina, which calls regularly at the Port of Miami, had been headed to Haiti with a load of containers. Bureau Veritas didn’t allow the ship to sail again until the fuses were rewired, Schopp said.

Built in 1988, Rio Haina is owned and operated by International Maritime Ships Agents Corp., based in Miami, the Coast Guard said. Jose Babun, the company’s chief executive, confirmed in July that repairs had been completed to the ship’s electrical system and the vessel was back in trade.

“They reconfigured the fuses so each generator has its own fuse to the switchboard, so if one goes down, the others stay running,†Schopp said. “They refitted all of the vessels in their fleet.â€

Babun said the accident caused no structural damage to Rio Haina. He declined further comment.

In 2006 and 2007, Coast Guard inspections found several maintenance problems on Rio Haina, according to data on the Coast Guard Port State Information Exchange’s Web site. Repairs were ordered to the ship’s steering gear system, a diesel engine, its mooring subsystem, a hydraulic line and the engine on a rescue boat. During one boarding, Coast Guard personnel found the ship’s engine room “completely soaked†because coolant and oil were leaking from equipment, and hoses and electrical cords were scattered around the deck in a hazardous manner.

Schopp said Rio Haina drifted to port when it lost power. The Miami Beach Marina reported that the ship damaged a dock and two recreational boats that were moored there. A cost estimate of the damage was not available.

The Coast Guard was considering possible enforcement action, Schopp said.

By Professional Mariner Staff