Maritime Casualty News, July 2015

Towboats collide, barge overturns near New Orleans

Two towing vessels collided in the Mississippi River west of New Orleans, causing several barges to break free and one to overturn.

The tugs American Heritage and David G. Schert collided near Vacherie, La., in the early afternoon on July 2, according to a Coast Guard news release. A barge carrying caustic soda flipped and landed on a riverbank out of the navigable waterway. The other barges were recovered without incident.

“The overturned barge released an unknown amount of caustic soda solution into the waterway. The worst case discharge is 23,672 gallons,” the release said. “This product will dissipate and neutralize soon after entering the water, posing minimal risk in the immediate vicinity of the barge.”

The Coast Guard notified local drinking water authorities about the spill and is investigating the cause of the collision.

Safety alert urges vigilance with CO2 fire suppression systems

The Coast Guard is urging operators to conduct regular inspections of fixed CO2 fire suppression systems.

The May 27 alert was issued after a Coast Guard marine inspector discovered an undetected discharge of the Kidde CO2 system in the emergency generator room of a passenger ferry. Crew were not aware of the discharge or present when it occurred, the alert said.

"This circumstance presented three latent unsafe conditions: the failure could have occurred while someone was within the space, a person could have entered the space after the release and the space remained unprotected for an unknown period of time," the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard said these systems must be checked visually by determining if the control head of the valve is aligned to "set" or "released" positions. The set position indicates the system is operational, while servicing is required if the components are set to released.

The Coast Guard recommends that crew be trained to inspect vessels’ CO2 systems. It suggests clear instructions for fixed CO2 systems to be posted, and frequent reviews of manuals, checklists and safety management systems pertaining to onboard vessel extinguishing systems.

Charter vessel grounds near Woods Hole

A passenger vessel carrying 113 people ran aground in the harbor near Woods Hole, Mass., during a harbor cruise.

The 78-foot Pied Piper reported the grounding to the Coast Guard at about 2244 hours on July 14, according to a news release. The accident occurred near Grassy Island in the Great Harbor with 106 passengers and seven crew aboard. Nobody was injured.

The Coast Guard sent two 45-foot response boat-medium vessels from Station Woods Hole and a 29-foot response boat-small from Station Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard. Aids to Navigation Team Woods Hole responded with a 26-foot vessel, the release said.

Crews reached the stricken vessel by 2330 and began loading passengers onto the Coast Guard ships. The transfers were finished by midnight.

“Our top priority was the immediate safety and accountability of all passengers and crew aboard the Pied Piper,” Capt. John Kondratowicz, commander of Sector Southeastern New England, said in a statement.

Pied Piper was refloated at high tide and was towed back to shore. The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the accident.

Casualty flashback: July 1981

The 165-foot icebreaker M/S Arctic Explorer left Port Anthony, Newfoundland, for the coast of Labrador on July 3, 1981. The ship developed a sharp starboard list shortly after departing and sank off Cape Bauld, Newfoundland, in choppy seas.

There were 32 people on board the vessel, and 13 people died when the vessel sank at about 0800 on July 3. The Canadian Coast Guard rescued the 19 survivors after 51 hours in lifeboats.

Canadian authorities determined the vessel sank due to down-flooding as a result of the severe list, which was recognized at about 10 degrees and quickly increased to 40 degrees before the vessel sank. The agency raised the possibility that weathertight doors to the after-tween deck were not shut properly. The accident occurred during “moderate” weather, according to Canadian authorities.

Investigators determined the Norwegian-built ship had incorrect draft markings, and that the ship had occasionally been overloaded to the point that its load line was submerged.

Canadian investigators released a bulletin following the incident reminding vessel owners and masters to ensure the weathertight integrity of their vessels and observe draft mark and load line requirements. It warned of fines if draft scales are inaccurate.

By Professional Mariner Staff