Maritime Casualty News, May 2013

Six killed after ship hits control tower in Italian port

A containership crashed into a control tower in the northern Italian port of Genoa, Reuters reported. Six people were killed and three remain missing. The tower was about 160 feet high and was hit by the 781-foot Jolly Nero on May 7.

The crash occurred shortly after 2100 in calm conditions as Jolly Nero was maneuvering out of the port with assistance from two tugboats. The collision caused the control tower to collapse into the water. In addition to the dead and missing, officials said four people were injured and had been taken to a nearby hospital.

Jolly Nero is operated by the Messina Line, based in Genoa. The incident is under investigation, but according to the BBC, Italian Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said there “could have been a problem with the ship's engines or with the tugboat cables.”


Tugboat sinks in Baltimore Harbor

The 109-foot tugboat Kaleen McAllister sank on May 4, after striking a submerged object in Baltimore Harbor. The vessel began to sink at about 1930 and was submerged before 2100.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the tugboats Robert E. McAllister and Dann Marine Towing's Treasure Coast and Sun Coast were nearby and tried to assist the vessel, but were unsuccessful.

The 3,300-hp Kaleen McAllister is owned by McAllister Towing of New York and was built in 1970. Kaleen is one of three tugs owned by McAllister that are homeported in Baltimore.

All crewmembers were able to escape the vessel before it sank and no one was injured in the incident. According to McAllister's website, the tug can carry 22,900 gallons of fuel and 710 gallons of oil on board. A small sheen was reported and contained with a boom.

The vessel was not blocking navigation channels, but McAllister plans to salvage the tug and send it to a shipyard for repairs.


Railroad bridge struck during river flooding

The Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Miss., was closed by the U.S. Coast Guard after a lead barge hit a railroad bridge and about 30 barges broke free from the towboat Capt. Buck Lay.

The railroad bridge was struck April 21 at about 1100 while the river was experiencing flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

An AP report stated that “one barge sank in the traffic channel, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tippets said. Two others were partly submerged and pushed against the bank, a third was pushed up on a river dike and the rest had been collected.” The Coast Guard said the barges were carrying coal and grain.

Nine towboats with a total of 134 barges were held up that evening as they waited to get through.

The 168-foot Capt. Buck Lay is owned by Memco Barge Line Inc., which was acquired by AEP River Operations in 2001.


Shrimp boat sinks after catching fire

The 80-foot shrimp boat Skye Marie caught fire while docked at a fueling station in Tarpon Springs, Fla., and sank at about 2300 on May 14. The fire started about three hours earlier.

According to a U.S. Coast Guard press release, “SWS Environmental Services has collected about 4,900 gallons of water, diesel mix from the water's surface surrounding the vessel Skye Marie.” All removable fuel has been skimmed from the water. Divers from Resolve Marine were contracted to determine how much fuel remained aboard the vessel.

“The Skye Marie was in the middle of three boats tied together,” said Donald Sayre, deputy fire chief for Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue.

Coast Guard crews continued to monitor the pollution cleanup on May 17. No one was aboard Skye Marie when the fire started and there are no reports of injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation.


Casualty flashback: May 1968

On May 22, 1968, a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarine sank 400 miles southwest of the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, killing 99 crewmembers. USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was in transit across the Atlantic Ocean from Gibraltar to its homeport in Norfolk, Va.

Scorpion was a 252-foot Skipjack-class submarine vessel, built in 1958 by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp., and was launched in December 1959.

A public search was initiated when Scorpion failed to arrive in Norfolk as scheduled. After an unsuccessful search, on June 5 Scorpion and the crew were “presumed lost” by Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, chief of naval operations. At the end of October 1968, the Navy oceanographic research ship Mizar located sections of the hull of Scorpion in more than 9,800 feet of water about 400 miles southwest of the Azores.

The U.S. Navy has periodically monitored the environmental conditions of the site since the sinking and has reported the results in an annual public report on environmental monitoring for U.S. nuclear-powered ships and boats. The monitoring data confirm that there has been no significant effect on the environment.

According to an environmental report released by the National Nuclear Security Administration in May 2011, “The reactors used in all U.S. naval submarines and surface ships are designed to minimize potential hazards to the environment even under the most severe casualty conditions, including the actual sinking of the ship. First, the reactor core is designed so that it is physically impossible for it to explode like a bomb. Second, the reactor fuel elements are made of materials that are extremely corrosion resistant, even in seawater.”

The results of the U.S. Navy’s various investigations into the loss of Scorpion are inconclusive, according to a report released in 1993.

There are many theories about the cause of the loss of Scorpion. Among the theories are: accidental activation of a torpedo; malfunction of the trash disposal unit; and a Soviet attack. The details of why the submarine was diverted from its original course back to its homeport remain classified.


By Professional Mariner Staff