Fisherman injured in collision with bulk carrier off Massachusetts

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating what caused a 620-foot bulk carrier and a fishing boat to collide off Massachusetts, crushing the bow of the smaller vessel. One fisherman suffered a broken leg.

The 51-foot Michael Brandon was heading back to its home port of Scituate, Mass., at 1700 on Jan. 11 when it collided with West Bay about 20 miles southeast of Hull, the Coast Guard reported. The freighter, owned by Pacific Basin Shipping of Hong Kong, was bound for New Orleans after unloading 50,000 tons of road salt at Eastern Minerals in Chelsea.

Chief Peter Gollnick, an investigator with Coast Guard Sector Boston, said visibility was good at the time of the accident. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoy in the area reported waves of 3 feet or less and 15-knot winds.

“Conditions were actually pretty good,” Gollnick said. “It happened right around twilight, but it wasn’t like there was any fog or anything. West Bay was outbound in the traffic separation zone, and Michael Brandon was transiting back to Scituate. No one was where they shouldn’t have been.”

Michael Brandon hit West Bay‘s forward port quarter “more or less dead-on,” Gollnick said. The bulk carrier was not damaged, but the fishing boat’s entire bow was pushed in, he said.

The boat immediately began taking on water and the crew radioed for help. The Coast Guard dispatched a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Point Allerton and a Jayhawk rescue helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod, with the helicopter arriving on the scene within 30 minutes.

A pump was lowered to help Michael Brandon‘s crew keep the boat afloat, but the damage was too extensive to allow it to proceed under its own power. The three crewmen, who had donned survival suits, were taken aboard the Coast Guard lifeboat. The Coast Guard vessel then towed Michael Brandon back to port by its stern.

The vessels arrived in Scituate Harbor at about 2100. The pumps aboard Michael Brandon couldn’t keep up with the flow of water after the loss of momentum from the tow, however, and the boat sank next to the pier, Gollnick said.

“They were trying to get a crane on it to lift it up,” he said. “The problem was they didn’t have a commercial diver (to assist) at that point. It was a pretty well-made vessel, but it had lost watertight integrity.”

A nor’easter swept through the region the next day, delaying salvage efforts. Divers were able to attach straps to the boat after the storm. It was lifted from the water by crane on Jan. 14. No pollution was reported.

Scituate’s harbor master, Mark Patterson, said the vessel was pumped out and towed to the Brewer Yacht Yard in Plymouth for repairs.

Thomas Bell, the skipper and owner of Michael Brandon, could not be reached for comment on the extent of the damage or circumstances of the accident.

Ferdi Stolzenberg, spokesman for Pacific Basin Shipping, declined to provide details of the incident because it was under review by insurers.

“We regret the injury to one of the crew of the fishing vessel and are thankful that there were no other injuries and no pollution as a result of the incident,” he said.

Gollnick said the three crewmem­bers on West Bay‘s bridge were ques­­tioned and tested for drugs and alcohol, as were the three men aboard Michael Brandon. Test results have not been released pending the completion of the Coast Guard’s investigation.

Rich Miller

By Professional Mariner Staff