Maritime Casualty News, April 2019

New safety alert highlights man-overboard risks

The U.S. Coast Guard is highlighting risks associated with personnel exchanges at sea, particularly during rough weather, following a previously unreported fatality in 2018 in New York Harbor.

The incident occurred last fall as an unnamed 1,100-foot containership arrived in the Port of New York/New Jersey. Winds were blowing 40 knots with 13-foot swells as the crew prepared to board a pilot for the final leg of the journey.

“As the vessel maneuvered at about 10 knots to make a lee in preparation to embark a ship’s pilot via a side shell access port, it was hit by heavy seas that forced the (port) side shell hatch door open, resulting in flooding of the embarkation space, sweeping one crewman out to sea and injuring another,” the alert said.

The ship was on a west-northwesterly course at the time with seas on the starboard quarter. The bifold access door was located 13 feet above the waterline. The ordinary seaman (OS) who died in the incident was not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) and was not secured with a harness. The boatswain suffered a broken leg when the pilot ladder fell on him.

“The boatswain and OS were unable to monitor the seas from their position behind the hatch door. As the two crewmembers were in the process of opening the door, seas unexpectedly struck and violently forced it open, flooding the space,” the alert said.

The Coast Guard searched for the OS for 28 hours before calling off the effort.

The alert urged operators to review safety management systems, and internal procedures and guidance for personnel exchanges. It highlighted the importance of wearing a PFD and other safety equipment when working over the side or opening side shell hatches. It also called for communication and supervision between crew when opening a hatch in challenging weather.

The full safety alert can be viewed here.

Coast Guard: Inspectors finding more vessel deficiencies

The Coast Guard has issued its 2018 Domestic Annual Report, which shows a 14 percent increase in overall deficiencies along with an increase in the number of inspections.

The 2018 report marks the second consecutive year the service has released its findings, and the first since Subchapter M expanded the U.S.-flagged inspected fleet by about 6,500 vessels. The total fleet size is now just under 20,000 vessels.

The report, which does not include data from third-party inspectors working on the Coast Guard’s behalf, shows inspections rose 8.8 percent to 20,048 in 2018, and deficiencies found during these reviews grew 14 percent to 25,324. Total inspections and deficiencies were the highest since at least 2014. Forty U.S. vessels also were detained in 2018.

The report contains data for towing vessels after July 20, 2018, when the inspection regime mandated in Subchapter M took effect.

The document also offers a breakdown by vessel type of the 1,946 marine casualties reported in 2018, which involved 1,812 vessels. Nearly half of all casualties, 48 percent, involved towing vessels, while another 12 percent involved barges and 26 percent involved passenger vessels.

The full report can be viewed here.

Three mariners escape after towboat strikes object, sinks

Three mariners escaped from a towboat that struck an unknown object and sank in the Lower Mississippi River near Venice, La.

The 900-hp DeJeanne Maria was downbound pushing two empty barges when it hit the underwater object at about 0200 on April 15 near Pass a Loutre, La. The three crew on board the towboat escaped to another towing vessel, Supporter 1.

DeJeanne Maria came to rest on its side and partially blocked the channel in Pass a Loutre, located near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The vessel had up to 7,000 gallons of fuel on board, while initial reports suggested about 60 gallons entered the river. Denet Towing of Boothville, La., operates DeJeanne Maria.

ES&H responded to the incident and placed boom around the sunken towboat. Drone footage and a Coast Guard overflight suggested there was no active discharge of fuel from the vessel after the sinking. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Casualty flashback: April 1957

Four crew died when the tugboat John Pratt capsized and sank in Montreal Harbor while assisting the Swedish freighter Nyland.

According to a report in the Montreal Gazette, the tug had a line on Nyland when the current pushed it out of balance. The ship pulled over John Pratt and it capsized and sank very quickly. The incident happened at about noon on April 24, 1957, not far from the pier.

The captain, deck hand, cook and wheelsman on the tug died in the accident, while four other crewmembers on deck jumped off before the vessel went under. John Pratt sank on its side in about 40 feet of water near wharves along the city’s waterfront. Salvors moved the vessel before refloating it, and it later returned to service with a new name.

The only victim named in the news report was 62-year-old Zotique Bibeau, the tug’s captain.

By Professional Mariner Staff