Maritime Casualty News, March 2013

Towboat and oil barge strike pipeline in Louisiana

The towboat Shanon E. Settoon, pushing oil barge SMI 572, struck a liquefied petroleum gas pipeline in Bayou Perot, 30 miles south of New Orleans, La., at around 1800 on March 12. The 47-foot towboat caught fire with four crewmembers aboard.
      The towboat and barge had veered out of the navigation lane into shallow water and struck the pipeline. All four crewmembers were able to escape from the tug, but the captain suffered severe burns and was transported to a hospital in Baton Rouge.
      According to the U.S. Coast Guard, no oil had spilled and what had originally appeared to be pockets of oil on the water turned out to be particulate ash from the burned gas. Shanon E. Settoon had approximately 1,000 galloons of diesel aboard. The 154-foot barge was carrying 2,215 barrels of crude oil.
      Chevron, the owner of the pipeline, shut down the damaged pipeline. The Coast Guard allowed the residual gas to burn off before beginning an investigation.
      Environmental company ES&H of Houma was hired by Settoon Towing for cleanup operations. Containment boom was deployed as a precautionary measure.
      Built in 1975, Shanon E. Settoon is owned by Settoon Towing of Houma.


Towing vessel sinks in Mississippi River

A towboat began taking on water on March 7 and sank in the Mississippi River around midnight.
     U.S. Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a report around 0200 that the 56-foot towing vessel Justice had begun taking on water and sank. The three crewmembers aboard the towboat were able to get off before it sank and no injuries were reported.
     Justice was carrying 5,336 gallons of diesel fuel and 100 gallons of lube oil when it sank at mile marker 161.5 near New Orleans. A statement issued by the Coast Guard said the amount of fuel discharged into the river was unknown, but “current estimates indicate the full amount of fuel and oil carried aboard the vessel has not been released into the water.”
     The vessel was refloated the next day by McKinney Salvage & Heavy Lift Inc., of Baton Rouge, using a heavy lift crane. Containment boom had been deployed around the vessel as it rested on the river bottom. The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the incident.
     The towboat is owned by River Ventures LLC, of Saint Amant, La.


Cruise ship hits uncharted rock, damages hull and propeller

A Lindblad Expeditions cruise ship struck an uncharted rock off Panama on March 4 at approximately 1230.
     The 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Lion was departing an anchorage in the Las Perlas Islands, about 70 nautical miles from Panama City. The ship sustained damage to the hull and one propeller.
     After clearance from the U.S. Coast Guard, National Geographic Sea Lion returned to Panama City on its own power. The accident occurred on the third day of an eight-day voyage.
     The 133-foot ship was carrying 55 passengers and 35 crewmembers. No one was injured. The passengers were given the choice to continue their journey to Costa Rica by air and land, or to return home.


Report says N.H. tugboat sinking caused by human error

A tugboat involved with a bridge reconstruction project in Portsmouth, N.H., capsized and sank on Oct. 24, 2012. In February, a U.S. Coast Guard report on the incident deemed the cause of the sinking to be human error.
     The report was released to the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a New Hampshire newspaper.
     The tugboat, 55-foot Benjamin Bailey, spilled an estimated 225 gallons of diesel fuel into the Piscataqua River.
     A lack of attention to the mooring position of the boat is the first factor cited in the analysis of the ship’s sinking conducted by the Coast Guard. The investigation also deemed the company's operating handbook to be “inadequate” because it did not address mooring arrangements and policies about working at the construction site.
     Benjamin Bailey is owned by Riverside and Pickering Marine Contractors of Eliot, Maine. According to Seacoast Online, after Riverside Marine “paid a $500 fine to the Coast Guard for environmental contamination,” the company is not expecting any further legal action.


Casualty flashback: March 1989

On March 24, 1989, the single-hulled oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling almost 11 million gallons of heavy crude oil. The oil spill triggered major improvements in oil spill prevention and response planning.
     The bulk of the oil spilled from Exxon Valdez was released within six hours of the grounding. Despite efforts to contain the spill, tidal currents and winds caused the majority of the oil to float to shore. At the height of the response, more than 11,000 personnel, 1,400 vessels and 85 aircraft were involved in the cleanup, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
     Shoreline cleanup began in April 1989 and continued until September for the first year of the response. Twenty-four years later, the Prince William Sound region is still suffering from effects of the oil spill on marine life such as clams, herring and seals, which have not fully recovered.
     The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable causes of the grounding were: the failure of the third mate to properly maneuver the vessel, because of fatigue and excessive workload; the failure of the master to provide a proper navigation watch, because of impairment from alcohol; the failure of the Exxon Shipping Co. to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for Exxon Valdez; the lack of an effective vessel traffic system; and deficient pilot and escort services.
     The Oil Pollution Act was signed into law in August 1990, largely in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In 1992, MARPOL was amended to make it mandatory for tankers of 5,000 dwt or more ordered after July 6, 1993, to be fitted with double hulls. Congress enacted legislation requiring that all tankers be double-hulled by the year 2015.
     Prior to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, this was the largest oil spill in U.S. waters.

By Professional Mariner Staff