Maritime Casualty News, December 2014

Bulker crewman found dead in Lake Huron

The body of a 55-year-old sailor was recovered from Lake Huron several hours after he was reported missing by fellow crewmen aboard MV Lubie.

The unidentified Polish sailor hadn’t been seen for at least an hour when someone aboard the 622-foot bulker reported him missing Dec. 7, according to a U.S. Coast Guard news release. The vessel was about 10 miles from Rogers City, Mich., when crew called for help.  

Lubie turned around and retraced its route while the Coast Guard sent a 45-foot response boat and a Dolphin helicopter from two nearby stations. Crew aboard Lubie spotted the sailor floating facedown in the 39-degree water more than two hours after he was reported missing, the release said.

The Coast Guard boat crew recovered the sailor’s body and transferred him to shore where local authorities declared him dead. The incident is under investigation.

American P&I Club launches ‘Man Overboard!’ initiative

The American Club has created a program called “Man Overboard!” that is intended to reinforce safety on maritime vessels.

The initiative is directed toward tugs and barges operating on U.S. waterways where falls overboard represent a significant percentage of crew injuries, according to a news release.

“The many moving parts and rapidly changing circumstances of tug and barge operations in particular make training in support of strong situational awareness vitally important,” the announcement said. “It is also intended to reinforce the larger culture of safety to which members are already committed, and to which ‘Man Overboard!’ is intended to be a valuable addition.”

The safety campaign includes posters for use on vessels and while on land. There is a dedicated website with data on falls, examples of critical situations and demonstrations of best practices while on the vessel and in the event that a crewmember falls overboard.

For more information, visit:

Safety Alert focuses on emergency protocols

The U.S. Coast Guard is urging maritime operators to conduct regular vessel-specific emergency drills and hold regular training sessions to ensure crew can respond effectively during a crisis.

The warning follows a recent Uninspected Towing Vessel exam when a crewmember who meant to test fuel-oil shutoff cables pulled CO2 release cables instead, the alert said. 

“Accidental releases are not uncommon and vessel crewmember and Coast Guard inspector fatalities have occurred in the past,” the Nov. 12 safety alert said. “Fortunately, in this instance, the audible alarm system and release time delay functioned as intended, allowing all personnel to safely evacuate the machinery spaces prior to discharge.”

The alert reminds shore and vessel personnel about the importance of logically designed and well-maintained emergency systems. Crewmembers must know how to use them.

In addition to testing and drills, Coast Guard officials recommend holding simulations and walk-throughs prior to actual testing of “complex or potentially confusing systems.” It recommends implementing operational controls to reduce risks.

For more information on the safety alert, visit

Casualty flashback: December 1989

This month marks the 25th anniversary of a notable grounding of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter in Lake Superior. The cutter Mesquite was tending navigational buoys early on Dec. 4, 1989, when it ran aground near Keweenaw Peninsula. The crew was swapping the summer navigational buoy with a winter buoy when it became stuck on a reef.

“The buoy, ironically enough, marked the rock ledge onto which the ship came to rest,” according to the Coast Guard’s official history of the vessel. “The buoy was not in the area that the Mesquite normally patrolled; however, they were filling in for the USCGC Sundew, which was in dry dock for long overdue repairs to equipment and the hull.”

Crew aboard the 180-foot Mesquite based in Charlevoix, Mich., attempted to free the ship before abandoning ahead of a storm. The vessel sustained hull damage, a broken rudder and a broken mast. The Coast Guard, which initially planned to salvage the vessel, declared it a total loss.

In July 1990, the Coast Guard moved the ship about a mile to Keystone Bay and sank it in 117 feet of water. According to Coast Guard documents, this was the first vessel deliberately sunk for future recreational uses.

The December 1989 grounding was not the Mesquite’s first. It ran aground in April 1964 while operating eight miles from Escanaba, Mich. Two days later, Sundew had freed Mesquite and a commercial tug that became stuck aiding the cutter.

By Professional Mariner Staff