Maritime Casualty News, January 2017

Safety alert: Fatality shows safety plans of no use if not followed​

The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a safety alert reminding mariners that even the best work plans aren’t any good if they’re not properly followed.

The alert was issued after an incident off Texas in which a mariner fell from a bosun’s chair while painting the hull of a bulk carrier. The man drowned as crewmembers tried to save him, and the ship’s rescue craft apparently would not launch. The Coast Guard did not identify the ship.

Coast Guard investigators determined the mate fell into the sea when the chair line parted as crew began pulling up the man. He was wearing a safety harness but not a personal flotation device (PFD).

According to the alert, the ship’s captain and chief mate formulated a work plan that preceded the mariner’s painting project and shared details with relevant crew.

“The plan had several important elements, including inspecting the bosun’s chair and manila rope rigging and requiring that the crewmember going over the rail wear a personal flotation device and use a safety harness and lifeline,” the alert said. “However, the plan was not implemented.”

Crew did not check to make sure the bosun’s chair was strong enough to hold the mariner. Instead, they pulled on the line to gauge its strength. Investigators learned the lifeline was untended and not tied off on the ship.

“The vessel’s bosun was not present, and it remains unknown as to who was supervising the operation,” the alert said.

The Coast Guard urged mariners to make sure safety equipment is used properly and that work teams are properly supervised. Work plans also should be carefully thought through, including worst-case scenarios, and steps should be taken to prevent those situations. Finally, the service recommended that mariners implement and follow their ship’s safety management system.

To view the report in full, visit

‘Pressurized object’ injures two men aboard tanker

The Coast Guard rescued two mariners from a crude oil tanker roughly 20 miles offshore from Sabine Pass, Texas, after both were hit by a pressurized object on the vessel.

According to the Coast Guard, a 24-year-old crewman was hit in the head by the pressurized component, which left him bloodied and unconscious. A 42-year-old crewman suffered a broken nose in the incident.

The accident occurred at about 1430 on Dec. 21 aboard the 748-foot Greek-flagged tanker Unlimited Ambassador.

Coast Guard helicopter and boat crews responded to the tanker and determined the unconscious mariner should be airlifted to shore. The second mariner was transported in the Coast Guard response boat. Both men were initially treated at a Port Arthur hospital, although the unconscious mariner was later taken to a Beaumont trauma center.

It’s not clear what struck the mariners, where the accident occurred on the ship or how it happened.

The Coast Guard is not required to investigate incidents that occur beyond three miles offshore, Coast Guard spokesman Dustin Williams said in an email. In this case, the responding agencies did not submit a report beyond the initial rescue response, he said.

Coast Guard schedules final El Faro hearings

The Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation will convene for its third and final set of hearings into the El Faro tragedy starting Feb. 6 in Jacksonville, Fla. Two rounds of hearings were held last year.

The third session will reference El Faro’s bridge transcript, released last month by the National Transportation Safety Board, which documents the ship’s final 26 hours at sea. The NTSB also will participate in the hearings, although its own investigation is ongoing, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

The hearings will take place at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center. The sessions will be streamed live and on demand at

El Faro sank on Oct. 1, 2015, about 35 miles north-northeast of Crooked Island in the Bahamas after losing its main engine during Hurricane Joaquin. Thirty-three people died in the accident, and the cause of the sinking remains under investigation.

Casualty flashback: January 1921

The five-masted schooner Carroll E. Deering was returning to Virginia from Barbados in January 1921 when something went awry. The ship was last seen aground off Cape Hatteras, N.C., its crew missing along with navigational equipment and other valuables.

The incident remains one of the biggest maritime mysteries of the early 20th century, with observers suggesting crew mutiny, Communist intervention, hurricanes, piracy and even paranormal activity within the Bermuda Triangle.

After the captain fell ill shortly after departing Norfolk, Va., Capt. W.B. Wormell came on board in Delaware to oversee the voyage to Rio de Janeiro and the ship’s 10 mostly foreign crewmembers. After delivering its cargo of coal in Brazil, Carroll E. Deering set out to return to the United States, stopping in Barbados to resupply. There, the vessel’s first mate reportedly complained about Wormell to other mariners and apparently threatened to “get” the captain on the trip home to Virginia.

The mate, Charles B. McLellan, was arrested for the threat, although Wormell apparently bailed him out. That gesture may have been his undoing.

After departing Barbados, Carroll E. Deering was spotted off North Carolina by the Cape Lookout Lightship on Jan. 28, 1921. The lightship operator spoke with a foreign crewmember who the operator believed lacked the bearing of a captain. Crew also were spotted in the schooner’s foredeck, an unusual break from protocol.

Three days later, the ship was seen aground on Diamond Shoals, a notorious section of the Outer Banks. Authorities later boarded the vessel and confirmed it was Carroll E. Deering.

“Upon investigating the ship, it was discovered that all personal belongings, key navigational equipment, certain papers, and the ship’s anchors were missing. Furthermore, food was laid out as if in preparation for a meal,” according to an article by the National Park Service. “But there was no sign of the crew.”

The U.S. government launched a massive investigation propelled by claims of Bolshevik cells seeking to commandeer American ships, and a message in a bottle that washed up on the North Carolina shore three months after the accident claiming an unknown vessel was chasing Deering. The message was later deemed a hoax.

Additional theories involved a confrontation with rum-runners and damage from hurricanes were also considered, as was mutiny. Ultimately, the case was closed without any definitive finding. The ship’s crew was never found.

By Professional Mariner Staff