Maritime Casualty News, June 2015

Cruise ship strikes lock wall in New York

A cruise ship carrying 274 people hit the wall of a lock system in the St. Lawrence Seaway. Thirty passengers and crew were hurt.

The 286-foot Saint Laurent was traveling from Montreal to Toronto when it struck the side of the Eisenhower Lock at about 2145 hours on June 18. The accident occurred near Massena, N.Y.

Water from the lock was partially drained while crews removed injured passengers and crew, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a news release. Thirty injured passengers and crew were treated at local hospitals, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard sent a 25-foot response boat from Station Alexandria Bay and a marine inspector from Marine Safety Detachment Massena. The vessel was to remain in the lock with the doors closed until it could be moved, the release said.

The impact damaged the bow, but Saint Laurent was eventually able to continue sailing under its own power. The passengers were taken to Montreal by bus. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Crewmember presumed dead after towing vessel sinks

A towboat carrying five people capsized and sank in the Lower Mississippi River, and one crewmember is presumed drowned.

The UTV Miss Natalie sank at about 0800 on May 30 south of the town of Convent, La. According to a Coast Guard news release, five people were aboard when the vessel went down at mile marker 163. Four of those people were later picked up by another boat.

The Coast Guard sent two MH-65 helicopter crews and a 45-foot response boat from New Orleans to search for the missing crewmember, who was seen on the vessel when it sank. A response boat from the Port of South Louisiana assisted in the search.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the missing crewmember’s family and friends," Cmdr. Kelly Denning of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans said in a statement.

River traffic was reduced to one-way between mile markers 158 and 162 on the day of the accident. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

116 barges break free near St. Louis

One hundred sixteen barges, some carrying hazardous cargo, broke free of their moorings in St. Louis Harbor. The vessels had been assembled at large fleeting areas near the Port of St. Louis.

The Coast Guard received a call about the incident at about 0653 on May 30. The agency set up a Safety Zone and closed river traffic from mile markers 165 to 176 so the barges could be recovered.

“These barges were floating freely and represented an immediate danger to facilities and bridges in the Port of St. Louis,” the Coast Guard said in a news release. “An Urgent Marine Information Broadcast requesting all boats in the area to respond was transmitted.”

The 116 barges were recovered without incident. There was no pollution, damage to nearby infrastructure or injuries reported, the agency said. The affected section of river reopened at about 1600 on May 30, about nine hours after it was closed.

Casualty flashback: June 1960

The U.S. Coast Guard Lightship Relief was anchored at the Ambrose Channel Lighthouse Station along a key ship channel roughly 20 miles south-southeast of Manhattan when it was rammed by an outbound freighter in heavy fog on June 24, 1960. Relief was anchored as a floating lighthouse.

The cargo vessel Green Bay had departed the Port of Newark bound for Mumbai, India, when it slammed into the smaller ship at about 0411. The accident occurred in near-zero visibility. Relief’s foghorn and light were operating, according to the Coast Guard accident report.

“We all braced ourselves, as we watched in horror, the much taller bow of the freighter first strike and ‘splinter’ the motor life boat, then strike our starboard side, just aft of amidships between the letters ‘R’ and ‘E,’” Boatswain's Mate Third Class Bobbie Pierce, who was aboard Relief, said in an oral history of the accident. “We were struck on almost a 90-degree angle and rolled about 15 degrees to port as a result of the impact.”

Relief sank about 10 minutes after impact, with the nine crewmembers forced to abandon ship into an inflatable life raft. The entire crew survived the accident. They were eventually picked up by Green Bay at about 0530 on the morning of the accident.

Investigators said Green Bay, at half ahead, was going too fast for the foggy conditions. The cargo ship never established how far it was from the relief and operated on a heading directly toward the lightship.

“The engine order of half ahead under the existing conditions was excessive particularly in view of the fact that the master apparently had no confidence in his radar due to previous erratic operation in addition to the fact that the distance to the lightship was never established,” the accident report said.

Lightships continued to operate along Ambrose Channel until 1967, when Ambrose Light Station was built. The station continued to operate until 1999, when it was replaced by the unmanned Ambrose Light, which itself was decommissioned in 2008.

By Professional Mariner Staff