Maritime Casualty News, December 2017

Tennessee towboat accident claims two crewmen

One person died and another is missing and presumed dead after a towboat sank in the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tenn.

The 1,400-hp Ricky Robinson sank at mile marker 733 on Dec. 8. Capt. Keith Pigram and his stepson Anquavious Jamison were the only two people on board. Watch standers heard a mayday call from the vessel at 1142 hours.

The U.S. Coast Guard and local authorities searched for both men for more than a day. Authorities recovered Jamison’s body about 10 days later when the 66-foot vessel was salvaged.

Wepfer Marine of Memphis operated the towboat. The company has not responded to requests for comment. The Coast Guard is still investigating the incident and has not shared a probable cause of the sinking.

Barges break away in Louisiana after barrier impact

Six barges broke free from their tow after a lead barge hit a concrete barrier near Houma, La.

The incident occurred on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway at about 2010 on Dec. 12 near mile marker 57.5. The lead starboard barge, pushed by the 2,000-hp Native Dancer, made contact with the wall.

At least three of the barges were recovered soon after the breakaway, and the Coast Guard said there were no reports of pollution or injuries. Authorities temporarily closed the waterway during the barge recovery.

Native Dancer is more than 40 years old but underwent a major refurbishment in 2015. The Coast Guard is investigating the incident but did not release the cause.

Passengers evacuated after ferry grounds off Brooklyn

Another New York City ferry has run aground, this time in Rockaway Inlet off Brooklyn after leaving from a nearby terminal.

The 85-foot Flyer got stuck on a sandbar at about 1730 on Dec. 27 after leaving from Rockaway for Wall Street's Pier 11. The New York City Fire Department transferred 23 passengers and crew from the ferry. Four crew remained with the vessel as efforts were made to refloat it. No one was injured and no pollution was reported.

The Coast Guard is investigating the grounding, which occurred exactly one month after the fast ferry Zelinsky grounded after leaving Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan. Zelinsky sustained hull damage in that incident, which the Coast Guard is investigating.

Casualty flashback: December 1964

SS Smith Voyager was sailing from Freeport, Texas, to India with a load of winter wheat when its cargo shifted during a storm. The shift on Dec. 20 left the ship with a severe starboard list while sailing some 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.

Thirty-four crewmembers from Smith Voyager escaped to the German freighter M/V Mathilde Bolton while the captain and three others stayed behind. The German ship also picked up the bodies of four crew who died during the rescue.

Coast Guard personnel on the cutter Rockaway rescued the captain and crew that were still aboard Smith Voyager on Dec. 21.

On Christmas Day, a salvage tug reached the stricken ship. Two days later, Smith Voyager sank while under tow about 700 miles east-southeast of Bermuda.

A court later determined the former Victory-class cargo ship was overloaded, which was “a substantial cause of the disaster.” Court documents indicate the vessel’s boilers and evaporators weren’t working for much of the voyage, and a leak in the rudder stock gland caused the ship to take on water.

By Professional Mariner Staff