Maritime Casualty News, December 2018

Barges break away, one sinks in Massachusetts Bay

Four barges broke free from a tugboat on Dec. 2 and one sank just outside a shipping channel near the Massachusetts town of Nahant.

The tugboat Big Jake had five barges in tow when two broke free at about 0930 roughly two miles southeast of Nahant, located in northern Massachusetts Bay. Two more barges broke free as the tugboat approached Hull, Mass., the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Assist tugs Smith Predator, Justice and Kendall J. Hebert each recovered a drifting barge, but a fourth capsized and sank. The sunken barge, Dredge 200, carried construction equipment. It had no more than 500 gallons of fuel and 400 gallons of hydraulic oil on board.

Two days after the sinking, the Quincy police boat Guardian, equipped with side-scan sonar, spotted the sunken barge on the sea floor in 100 feet of water. The barge sank just outside the North Channel, a major shipping lane into Boston.

“I am grateful for the rapid and sustained support of our partner agencies," said Capt. Eric Doucette, Coast Guard Sector Boston commander, noting that search conditions were not ideal.

Two cruise ship crewmen burned in fire off N. Carolina

Two crewmen suffered second-degree burns aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Escape, and the Coast Guard medevaced both men about 24 miles off Atlantic Beach, N.C.

Crew aboard the 1,069-foot ship reported the injuries at about 1550 on Nov. 26 after the fire in the engine room, the Coast Guard said. The victims were identified only as Filipino crewmen age 25 and 26.

The Coast Guard dispatched a Jayhawk MH-60 helicopter that hoisted the men off the vessel and flew them to an airport near Rocky Mount, N.C. Waiting paramedics transported them to the hospital.

NTSB’s new Safer Seas Digest examines 41 casualties

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released its 2017 Safer Seas Digest that includes key details from 41 marine casualties that occurred in U.S. waters or involved U.S.-flagged ships.

The report focuses on lessons learned from incident reports released during the 2017 calendar year. It is intended to be valuable for mariners as well as maritime executives aiming for an effective safety culture, the NTSB said.

“The digest contains information that can help mariners at the deckplate level prevent future accidents, and can help maritime industry C-suites build and sustain a culture of safety at sea,” the agency said.

The 94-page document examines 11 safety issues such as fatigue, cellphone distraction, anchoring in strong currents, safety management systems and VHF reception. It also includes photos and information released in the agency’s final report on the El Faro sinking in late 2015.

“I hope that Safer Seas Digest 2017 provides the marine industry with essential and actionable information to address the safety issues confronting it,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said. “With every investigation we conduct, the lessons learned can prevent such losses in the future — when marine stakeholders at all levels of the industry apply these lessons.”

The report can be found here.

Casualty flashback: December 2004

A Malaysian-flagged bulk carrier transporting soybeans from Seattle to Xiamen, China, grounded near Unalaska Island on Dec. 6, 2014, and broke apart two days later in rough seas. Six crewmembers died when a U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter crashed near the ship, and more than 300,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled.

The 738-foot Selendang Ayu cleared Unimak Pass when its engine failed at about 1200 on Dec. 6. The failure was later blamed on a cracked liner on the No. 3 cylinder, and four cylinder heads also were cracked. Crew could not restart the engine, and the ship drifted toward shore in winds approaching 40 knots and seas nearing 25 feet.

The vessel continued drifting on Dec. 7 as crew tried to repair the engine, but to no avail. An assist tugboat got a line onto the ship and slowed its movement toward land, but the line parted soon after a second tug arrived. The ship grounded at about 1705 on Dec. 8.

Two Coast Guard cutters were alongside the ship for much of its time adrift, and a rescue helicopter lifted 18 of its crew before the bulker grounded. About an hour after the grounding, a Coast Guard helicopter with 10 people on board crashed after a rogue wave broke over the deck and inundated the aircraft’s engine with seawater. All three Coast Guard crewmembers survived, but six Selendang Ayu mariners died.

The ship broke apart at about 1915 on Dec. 8, and its master and a Coast Guard rescue swimmer were successfully recovered from the vessel about an hour later. Authorities estimate about 338,000 gallons of fuel spilled into the waterway, fouling local beaches and killing more than 1,500 birds.

By Professional Mariner Staff