Maritime Casualty News, January 2015

Crewman missing after falling overboard near Sabine Pass

A 29-year-old crewman fell into the Gulf of Mexico while painting the hull of a bulk carrier and never returned to the surface, the Coast Guard said.

The sailor was painting the side of the 738-foot Chinese-flagged bulk carrier CF Crystal on the morning of Dec. 13, 2014, when he fell in roughly 10 miles from Sabine Pass.

Crew aboard the ship threw a life ring toward the man but he was unable to reach it, according to a Coast Guard news release. The sailor fell below the surface soon afterward and was not seen again.

The Coast Guard dispatched an aircraft and a boat crew to search for the man. A lifeboat from the 600-foot Liberia-flagged tanker Corrido also assisted with the search but found only the man’s hardhat.

As of mid-January, officials had not announced a recovery of the sailor’s body.

Barge sinks after Ohio River collision

One barge sank and another carrying 921,000 gallons of crude oil was damaged during an overnight collision on the Ohio River.

The towing vessel Christina Belcher was pushing two oil barges when it struck a loaded sand barge in a fleeting area near Joppa, Ill., the Coast Guard said in a news release. The incident occurred at about 0300 hours on Dec. 24, 2014, at mile marker 952.

The oil barge was damaged but no pollution was reported. The sand barge sank outside the navigable waterway, the Coast Guard said. There were no injuries.

Coast Guard personnel from Paducah, Ky., supervised the response and recovery. The accident remains under investigation.

Lake Tahoe tour boat grounded

The Coast Guard issued a “no sail” order for a Lake Tahoe excursion boat after the vessel apparently ran aground early on New Year’s Day.

Channel 2 news reported the 312-passenger Tahoe Queen was carrying less than 200 people when it became stuck just a few hundred yards from its dock in South Lake Tahoe shortly after midnight.

The Coast Guard believes the vessel ran aground, but the Tahoe Queen’s parent company, Aramark, claims that didn't happen. The company told the TV station that the paddle-wheel boat stalled due to high winds.

“They say it is company policy for the boat to stop and wait for a tugboat when winds get too extreme,” according to Channel 2 news, a CBS affiliate in Reno, Nev.

The no-sail order stems from mechanical issues unrelated to the New Year’s Day incident, the TV station reported. The vessel’s mechanical issues were not disclosed.  

Casualty Flashback: January 1939

The 6,000-ton freighter S.S. Waukegan was traveling west in the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal at about 0800 on Jan. 10, 1939, when it rammed the St. George’s Bridge. The 260-foot vertical lift bridge, located roughly nine miles east of Chesapeake City, Md., collapsed into the canal, killing two bridgekeepers, according to newspaper accounts.

Waukegan Capt. John Lloyd Reynolds later testified that he asked for and received permission from a canal dispatcher to increase the vessel’s speed prior to the accident, the Bi-State Weekly newspaper reported in 1939. At the time, the ship’s controls were not responding properly at the lower speed of about 6 knots, the captain said.

"The vessel responded perfectly to its helm until within approximately 1,200 feet of the bridge, when the bow suddenly sagged off to starboard,” the captain said during testimony. “The pilot ordered a left wheel without response and the vessel continued to shear even against a full opposite helm.”

The captain said speed was not a factor. He blamed the accident on unexpectedly strong currents and the anchor's failure to catch in the canal's soft bottom.

At the time, bridgekeepers were stationed in the center of the bridge. After the accident, bridge controls on the nearby Chesapeake City Bridge were moved to shore, possibly preventing casualties when a tanker rammed that bridge in 1942, the Historical Society of Cecil County said.

A replacement bridge in the unincorporated community of St. George’s, Del., opened in 1942. That four-lane bridge that carries Route 13 traffic over the canal is still standing.

By Professional Mariner Staff