Maritime Casualty News July 2012

Freighter grounds on coral reef in Puerto Rico

The 185-foot freighter Jireh ran aground on Mona Island, an uninhabited island off Puerto Rico, on June 21. There have been no reports or signs of pollution in the water, but 800 feet of containment boom surround the vessel to limit any environmental impact.

         Mona Island is maintained as a nature reserve. A team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) divers surveyed for possible damage to the coral reefs and found minimal impact.

         In addition to various kinds of cargo, the Honduran-flagged Jireh had 79 migrant passengers and five crewmembers aboard. All individuals have been accounted for and all were said to be in good condition.

         Removal of the vessel is being overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, and various other federal, state and local agencies. Efforts are also underway to remove about 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel and a variety of oiled cargo from the ship, including mangoes, water bottles, cinder blocks, grain, bags of horse feed, and carbonated drinks.

         The cause of the grounding is unknown and is under investigation by the Coast Guard.


Passenger medevaced due to head trauma

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 60-year-old man off a ship 30 miles east of Morehead City, N.C., on June 18. The man, who was a passenger on the 266-foot Svendborg, reportedly had fallen and suffered head trauma.

         According to a press release, the Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a 47-foot motor lifeboat in response to the call at 1815.

         “This hoist proved to be more difficult than a typical one,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Burgard, the rescue swimmer who aided in the medevac. “Adding to the common difficulties and dangers of an evolution such as this, there was a language barrier making it tough to learn anything about the patient.”

         The man was hoisted from Svendborg to the Jayhawk and transported to Carteret General Hospital in Morehead City.


Amver vessel rescues 7 from fishing boat

A 72-foot fishing boat with seven crewmembers required the assistance of an Amver (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue system) vessel when it caught fire 316 miles northeast of Johnston Island on June 13.

         The U.S. Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu received two alerts from Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons. The first was unidentifiable and the second was determined to belong to a NOAA observer who was aboard the fishing vessel Golden Eagle II.

         An HC-130 Hercules air crew located Golden Eagle II and used the Amver program to contact the crew of the 751-foot cargo ship, Forestal Diamante, which was 60 miles from the fishing boat. All seven crewmembers were safely transported to Forestal Diamante and were reported to be in good condition with no injuries.

         Forestal Diamante has participated in the Amver program six times since it enrolled in 2004.


U.S. Army vessel intentionally beached after striking rock

The 174-foot U.S. Army landing craft Monterrey struck Humpback Rock in Chiniak Bay, Alaska, on June 8. To keep the vessel from sinking, the Monterrey crew successfully beached the vessel on Puffin Island.

         The crew reported a breach in an 8,000-gallon fuel tank to the U.S. Coast Guard. The tank completely emptied into Chiniak Bay, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The crash also damaged another fuel tank, which had a capacity of more than 9,000 gallons, but it was unclear exactly how much fuel leaked out of that tank. The Coast Guard estimated that Monterrey leaked about 15,000 gallons of No. 2 diesel fuel.

         The vessel was reportedly carrying 40,000 gallons of fuel when it struck Humpback Rock.

         “It’s kind of a unique spill response, because everything worked out,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffry Crews. “The weather drove everything into good collection points and away from sensitive areas like the Buskin (River).” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveyed Puffin Island on Monday but reported no oil on the wildlife.

         Three of the 17 people on board Monterrey have been treated for minor injuries. The crew was participating in a mission to provide transportation of heavy construction equipment and supplies from Port Hueneme, Calif., to Bethel, Alaska, in support of a mission for the Marine Corps.


Casualty flashback: July 1915

Many of the most famous maritime disasters occurred miles out to sea. The 269-foot passenger steamer SS Eastland, however, never made it past its wharf in downtown Chicago. On July 24, 1915, as SS Eastland prepared to embark across Lake Michigan, passengers filled the boat to its capacity of 2,570, causing the vessel to become unstable and capsize in 20 feet of water.

         Soon after everyone was aboard, the ship began to list and the engine room crew pumped water into the ballast tanks to keep the ship on an even keel. Their hurried attempts failed, and SS Eastland rolled over in less than five minutes. According to the Eastland Memorial Society, 844 people lost their lives, many of them trapped in the interior cabins. The victims of this disaster were employees of Western Electric and members of their families, heading out for their annual company picnic.

         In response to regulations that arose from the sinking of Titanic, SS Eastland’s owners had recently added several additional lifeboats and a few dozen tons of deck-reinforcing concrete, adding some weight to the upper decks. The capsizing was ultimately blamed on SS Eastland’s poor weight distribution.

         According to the Eastland Disaster Historical Society, after the modifications to the upper decks and before the July capsizing, the largest load of passengers that SS Eastland had taken aboard was 1,123.

         The U.S. Navy restored the vessel to seaworthiness, and recommissioned it as USS Wilmette.

By Professional Mariner Staff