Maritime Casualty News, December 2015

Towboat sinks after collision near Memphis

Two towboats collided in the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tenn., and one later sank in 20 feet of water.

The incident involving William Straight and Margaret Ann occurred Dec. 14 near mile marker 727, the Coast Guard said. William Straight had 93,000 gallons of diesel and another 3,000 gallons of lube and other oils, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  

In a statement, NOAA said William Straight struck an asphalt barge before sinking. Additional details about the accident were not released and the cause is still under investigation, the Coast Guard said.

Authorities set a safety zone between mile 726 and 728 for incident cleanup and response. Crews placed sorbent boom and 2,100 feet of containment boom around the sunken tug after aircrews noticed a half-mile sheen in the Mississippi.

River traffic remained open to one-way traffic while the safety zone was in place.

Western Rivers Boat Management of Paducah, Ky., operated the 7,200-hp William Straight. According to the Coast Guard, the company was preparing a salvage plan.

Nearly a dozen companies and agencies responded to the incident, including Coast Guard air and vessel crews, NOAA, the National Transportation Safety Board, Memphis Police and the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation.

Containers fall from cargo ship near Golden Gate

The Coast Guard is warning of potential hazards to wildlife from 12 shipping containers that fell from a cargo ship during rough seas.

The 40-foot boxes washed overboard from the vessel Manoa on Dec. 11, the Coast Guard said in a news release. The incident happened roughly 8 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Salvage crews had recovered two of Manoa’s containers by Dec. 16. They were removing various debris from the boxes that ended up in the water. The Coast Guard said two of the containers were reported floating in the water near San Francisco and a third washed up on a beach.

Coast Guard officials expressed concern that the containers and their contents could harm sea and land animals.

“While the containers are not reported to contain any hazardous materials, debris from the contents, such as Styrofoam and plastic materials, pose hazards to marine and coastal wildlife through ingestion and entanglement,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Manoa is a U.S.-flagged cargo ship with a homeport in Honolulu. The 860-foot vessel is operated by Matson. The incident remains under investigation.

Safety alert warns of unapproved navigation lights

The U.S. Coast Guard is urging recreational and commercial boaters to avoid using unapproved navigational lights such as rope lighting, underwater lighting and other decorative lights. The agency said use of these lights could violate the “Nautical Rules of the Road” provisions.

In a safety alert released last month, the Coast Guard said vessel owners should confirm lights applied to the vessel meet minimum standards prescribed in the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea or the Inland Navigation Rules.

The Coast Guard said some vessel owners are purchasing lower-cost navigation lights that do not meet those requirements.

“These lights are typically less expensive, making them a tempting choice for uninformed consumers. Use of lights that do not provide the proper chromaticity, luminous intensity, or cut-off angles could result in the issuance of a notice of violation or potentially cause an accident,” the alert said.

When considering light purchases, operators should look for the following messages and information on the packaging: “USCG Approval 33 CFR 183.810,” “MEETS ABYC A-16 or equivalent,” “TESTED BY (an approved laboratory).” The name of the manufacturer, visibility in nautical miles and bulb specifications used in the compliance test also provide useful information, the safety alert said.  

The alert warned recreational boaters to avoid certain rope lights and other decorative lights that could be mistaken for navigational lights. The Coast Guard strongly recommends that vessel owners verify navigation lights meet the required certification data and urges retailers to guide customers to certified products.

To read the full alert, visit:

Casualty flashback: December 1932

The tank steamer Doris Kellogg was sailing from Atreco, Texas, to Philadelphia on Dec. 29, 1932, when its cargo of crude oil exploded off the North Carolina coast.

The 390-foot ship was carrying 51,000 barrels of Hobbs light crude oil, which burned for at least the next 12 hours. The ship was roughly 35 miles southeast of Frying Pan Shoals when it exploded, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"On December 29, at about 1:35 p.m. … she was suddenly shaken by a heavy explosion occurring aft of her amidships section; this was followed by fire,” according to court documents from a 1937 lawsuit spurred by the accident. “A few minutes later there was another explosion and, according to some witnesses, a third explosion occurred after another interval of several minutes.”

The ship’s 40-person crew escaped into lifeboats and were later picked up by Delaware Sun, a tanker sailing nearby. Crew from another vessel, Yamacraw, reported the ship was on fire “from amidships aft” at 2300 on Dec. 29. Doris Kellogg eventually sank.

Doris Kellogg was built in 1921 and was formerly known as Cedarhurst. At the time of the accident, the ship was owned by New York & Philippine Steamship Co. and operated under bareboat charter to Kellogg Steamship Corp., according to court documents.

The lawsuit alleged that the explosion was caused by a spark from an electrical wire in an empty dry cargo hold. The suit claimed that oil from a nearby tank leaked into it from a nearby holding tank and the wire ignited the fumes.

Indeed, an inspection two months before the explosion found that Doris Kellogg had 245 loose rivets and 1,638 slightly leaking rivets throughout the ship, court documents show.

“These were then repaired, but it is not unlikely that in the interval others had worked loose,” the lawyers argued.

It’s not clear if the exact cause was ever determined.

By Professional Mariner Staff