Maritime Casualty News, August 2019

Safety alert: Unauthorized components contributed to vessel fire

A casino transport vessel that caught fire on Florida’s Gulf Coast was outfitted with unauthorized components that allowed the fire to rapidly spread, contributing to a passenger’s death. The boat also lacked the required fuel shutoff systems.

The U.S. Coast Guard highlighted the incident in a safety alert reminding operators that fuel systems must meet federal standards.

“There is no compelling evidence to suggest that U.S.-inspected vessels are not compliant with CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) standards,” according to the alert issued Aug. 6. But given the “volatile properties of diesel and gasoline fuels and the potential for fuel leaks to either cause or accelerate shipboard fires,” the Coast Guard further recommended that owners and operators verify that their fuel systems meet federal requirements.

Specifically, the alert recommended owners “verify that their vessel’s fuel systems, including tank-level indicating equipment, are constructed with the appropriate heat-resistant materials and automatic shutoff devices in accordance with all applicable regulations.”

Fourteen people were injured when the 72-foot Island Lady caught fire on Jan. 14, 2018, off Port Richey, Fla. The captain intentionally grounded the vessel in shallow water so passengers could escape. A female passenger died six hours later from smoke inhalation.

Additional reporting about the Island Lady fire is available here. The safety alert can be viewed here.

Canada says sabotaged cutter needs extensive repairs

The Canadian government said its 140-foot cutter CCGS Corporal McLaren, damaged in an act of sabotage nine months ago at a Nova Scotia shipyard, will require at least a year’s worth of repairs.

Global News of Canada reported the $227 million Hero-class ship, launched by Irving Shipbuilding in 2013, will require “substantial” repairs to electronics, wiring and other components. The cost could exceed $5 million.

CCGS Corporal McLaren was undergoing a refit at a shipyard in Sambro, Nova Scotia, in November when it was cut from its cradle by one or more people using power tools. Cables holding the ship in place were severed. The vessel fell into the ocean on its starboard side and was partially submerged.

In April, five months after the incident, Canadian media reported that police had no suspects in the case.

Four injured when ferry runs aground in Boston Harbor

Four people were injured when a ferry ran aground near Long Island in Boston Harbor during the morning commute.

The vessel Lightning, operated by Boston Harbor Cruises, had 84 people aboard when it grounded at about 0745 on Aug. 16, the Coast Guard said. Local, state and federal authorities responded to the incident.

The injured riders were transported to Black Falcon Cruise Terminal in South Boston and taken to different Boston hospitals, according to the Coast Guard. Lightning transited back to its Charlestown dock under its own power.

Authorities are still investigating the incident and the cause has not been determined. Additional details, including vessel damage and the nature of the injuries, were not available.

Casualty flashback: August 1901

Forty people died on August 15, 1901, when the passenger ship Islander struck an iceberg in the Lynn Canal south of Juneau, Alaska.

The 240-foot Islander was sailing from Skagway, Alaska, to Victoria, British Columbia, with 107 passengers and 61 crew on the morning of the accident. The impact with the iceberg opened a hole on the vessel’s port quarter, causing rapid flooding.

Crew attempted to steer the ship to nearby Douglas Island as the forward compartments filled, pushing the bow down and the stern and props out of the water. The ship drifted for another 15 minutes before sinking.

Islander reportedly carried $6 million in gold bullion at the time of its sinking, a treasure worth more than $181 million in 2019. The wreck was initially located in 1902 in 175 feet of water, and two years later divers in a diving bell descended to the ship but could not access it. They reported a “gaping” hole in the bow section near the ship’s mailroom.

Salvage crews raised the vessel in 1934 and were almost certainly disappointed in the haul. The safe in the purser’s office yielded $75,000 in gold, a smattering of $10 and $20 gold coins, and some wet paper money. Efforts have continued to locate the “missing” gold that to this day has not been found.

By Professional Mariner Staff