Crew boat operated by unlicensed deck hand
strikes wellhead in Gulf, Coast Guard says

The bow of the crew boat became lodged on the wellhead after hitting it. The boat, with a crew of four, was transporting five oil-rig workers. (Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

Coast Guard helicopters rescued six people from a crippled Gulf of Mexico crew boat after the vessel slammed into a wellhead. The boat’s captain was injured.

Lady Marie, with a crew of four, was ferrying five oil-service workers from Venice, La., out to a platform in the Gulf when the accident happened at 0515 on Dec. 11, 2007. The bow of the 155-foot crew boat struck the wellhead and became lodged on it.

The captain initially reported that he did not see the wellhead on his radar. Coast Guard investigators later said the wheelhouse was manned by a deck hand who was not licensed to operate such a vessel.

“The captain had stepped away and allowed a deck hand to take the helm,” a Coast Guard incident report said. “The deck hand became confused about what he saw out the wheelhouse and ran into the platform.”

Lady Marie was navigating about seven miles north of Main Pass when it struck the Chevron Block 44 KC platform. The crew boat’s occupants were four employees of Valerus Compression Services and one subcontractor for that company, said Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesau, the Coast Guard’s chief of investigations for Sector New Orleans.

The crew was scheduled to go to the Main Pass 73 A platform. Visibility was six to nine nautical miles that morning. Lady Marie’s speed was not available.

Four Coast Guard helicopters from New Orleans hoisted to safety most of those aboard the stuck boat. Six of them were sent to West Jefferson Memorial Hospital but were promptly released. Coast Guard rescue boats transferred two others ashore.

Lady Marie’s captain stayed aboard even though he suffered a laceration over his eye and chest bruising.

A Chevron crew shut down the gas lift well, and no pollution was released.
Lady Marie was operating in an extremely challenging area for boat navigation crews because of the concentration of offshore supply vessels, other crew boats and oil and natural gas wells.

“We work in hazard-ripe environment, especially here in southern Louisiana,” Ben-Iesau said. “Even a seasoned sailor can feel danger’s sudden bite and at no fault of his own. Still, the most effective preventative out there, and a very effective one, is the skill of the experienced mariner.”

The vessel’s owner, the Iberia Marine crew boat service of New Iberia, La., declined comment.

Lady Marie’s bow was severely damaged by the force of the collision. The vessel was sent to the Seacraft boatyard in Amelia, La., for repairs. By early February, it still was not back in service.

The Coast Guard investigation was continuing in February.

By Professional Mariner Staff