Maritime Casualty News, March 2015

Ferry runs aground near Outer Banks

A 220-foot passenger and vehicle ferry operating between the North Carolina mainland the Ocracoke Island ran aground about a mile south of the island, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The captain of the ferry Silver Lake contacted Sector North Carolina officials at about 1700 on March 14 to report that the ferry was stuck. A Coast Guard news release said the vessel drifted into shallow waters before grounding. There were no injuries.

The Coast Guard responded with a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Hatteras. The Coast Guard crew removed 14 passengers from the ferry and transported them to the Ocracoke South Ferry Terminal on Ocracoke Island. The island is on the southern portion of the Outer Banks.  

Silver Lake is operated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The vessel can carry up to 50 vehicles and 300 passengers and has a 6-foot draft, according to the NCDOT website.  

Ferry crew planned to refloat the ferry with help from the tugboat Royal Engineer.

Safety Alert: Dynamic positioning failures on OSVs

The U.S. Coast Guard is warning offshore supply vessel (OSV) operators to heed all alarms and develop effective safety management systems in case of potential dynamic positioning failures.

The alert follows an incident on the Outer Continental Shelf where an OSV attached to a wellhead lost its position, severing the wellhead tree and spilling oil onto the platform deck and the surrounding environment, the alert said.

"Immediately prior to the position loss, the OSV had multiple (dynamic positioning) alarms and failures, including a loss of bow thruster and engine control. No attempt was made to identify or correct the causes of these failures and the operations continued," according to the alert.

The vessel operator was removing a downhole plug from the oil well using a wireline at the time of the incident. Pumping was not occurring. A subsurface safety valve prevented oil from flowing from the well.

In addition to acknowledging alarms and taking corrective action, the Coast Guard and federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement urge operators to train staff on proper disconnect procedures.

The Coast Guard also urges operators using dynamic positioning to develop guidelines for emergency disconnect procedures when thrusters or generators fail. When these situations occur, operators should halt operations to avoid equipment damage and pollution.

Visit to view the alert.

Coast Guard releases safety alerts from 1996-2014

The U.S. Coast Guard has published a list of safety alerts issued between 1996 and 2014. The 233-page compilation is available online as a PDF document that can be downloaded to computers, tablets and mobile phones.

The document includes a detailed table of contents that allows readers to click on a particular safety alert to jump ahead to that specific alert.

A 2013 safety alert reminded maritime operators to check vessels for “the presence of moving, rotating, reciprocating or articulating machinery hazards” and to take steps to prevent accidents. These include posting warning signs, conducting regular trainings, installing guards around machinery and keeping long hair and loose clothing away from the moving machinery.

An alert from 2014 highlighted best practices and the need to establish and follow safe policies and procedures during oil tank cleaning operations. The alert was released after recent casualties aboard barges conducting tank-cleaning operations that caused serious injuries to crew and workers and damaged property.

Another alert from last year reminded operators and crew to be aware of air draft to prevent the vessel or cargo from striking overhead bridges. The agency urged crew to rely on facts and data, not assumptions for the vessel’s air draft or a bridge’s height. Such incidents accounted for about 1 percent of bridge strikes during the previous 11 years, or about 200 incidents, the Coast Guard said.

The file size is about 13 MB and it can be downloaded here:

Casualty flashback: March 1957

The U.S. Navy tanker Mission San Francisco was sailing inbound on the Delaware River on March 7, 1957, when it was struck by the 302-foot Liberia-flagged freighter Elna II, which was traveling in the opposite direction.

The accident occurred at about 0036. Ten crewmembers aboard the 504-foot Mission San Francisco died when the tanker exploded and quickly sank.

There was a slight rain falling as both vessels approached a river intersection known as Bulkhead Bar Range at speeds between 9.5 and 17.5 knots. Despite the weather, visibility was considered good and both vessels could see one another, according to the Coast Guard report on the accident.

Investigators found that Mission San Francisco overshot the turn and was in a position "well to the west of the centerline of the channel and in the immediate path of the downbound Elna II."

Mission San Francisco's "hard left" turn immediately prior to the collision put the vessel further into the Elna II's path, the report found.

More broadly, however, neither vessel was aware what the other was doing leading up to the accident, the Coast Guard determined.

Mission San Francisco did not acknowledge Elna II's whistle. The person conning the Mission San Francisco seemed to be unaware of the other ship's presence until immediately prior to the collision, according to the report.

"Both vessels failed to timely ascertain the position, course, speed and intention of the other," the report said. "Such failure, under the conditions of the restricted waters navigated, negotiation of a dangerous intersection in the channel and the speed of approach caused collision to soon become imminent."

The master, chief mate, second mate, third mate and coastwise pilot were among those aboard Mission San Francisco who died in the accident.

By Professional Mariner Staff