Maritime Casualty News, May 2019

Search suspended for overboard Maersk officer

After a daylong search, Canadian authorities called off their effort to find the second officer of the containership Maersk Patras, who fell overboard into the St. Lawrence River.

The unidentified Sri Lankan national was reported overboard at about 0930 on May 19 while the vessel was north of the Saguenay River junction in Quebec. Additional details about the incident, including whether the ship was underway or if the crewman was wearing a personal flotation device, were not available.

The Canadian Coast Guard and crew from Maersk Patras participated in the search. Coast Guard officials called off the operation at about 2000.

“It is with regret we have received the news that the search and rescue operation was unsuccessful and we must conclude that we have lost our colleague. It is a tragic situation for the family and we have offered them our full support. My deepest condolences and thoughts go to them,” said Soren Toft, chief operating officer of A.P. Moller-Maersk.

Maersk also offered crisis counseling to crewmembers aboard the Singapore-flagged containership. The 21-year-old ship can hold 2,902 TEU.

Crew escapes injury in Louisiana towboat sinking

Three mariners escaped injury when the towboat Cindy R. sank in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) near Lafitte, La.

The incident happened at about 0600 on May 2 near ICW mile marker 8, west of the Harvey Lock. The 1,350-hp Cindy R. was pushing six barges at the time, the U.S. Coast Guard said. The barge cargo was not disclosed.

The three mariners aboard Cindy R. escaped to the towboat Elin Gertrude before their towboat sank. Elin Gertrude also recovered Cindy R.’s tow. Oil spill response crews placed boom around the towboat to prevent up to 3,000 gallons on board from spilling. Salvage teams also were coordinating the vessel recovery.

The Coast Guard has not released the cause of the sinking.

New report cites major hull damage in Arctic grounding

Canadian maritime investigators have released additional details into the August  2018 grounding of the passenger vessel Akademik Ioffe, suggesting the incident was more serious than initially reported.

The grounding, which occurred 78 nm north-northwest of Kugaaruk, Nunavut, caused “major hull damage” to the Russian ship, according to an update posted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB). The grounding breached three ballast water tanks and two fuel tanks, all of which flooded. About 20 gallons of fuel escaped.

The vessel was carrying 163 passengers, scientists and crew at the time. Passengers were transported to sister ship Akademik Sergey Vavilov after the accident, and no injuries were reported. Akademik Ioffe was refloated and repaired before returning to Russia.

The TSB has not concluded its investigation into the incident.

Akademik Ioffe might not return to the Arctic in 2019, at least not as a passenger vessel. Canadian media reported this week that Russia had “commandeered” Akademik Ioffe and another vessel leased by One Ocean Expeditions. The company said a lawsuit is likely.

Casualty flashback: May 1925

Engineers and their families boarded the steamships M.E. Norman and Choctaw on May 8, 1925, for a short voyage on the Mississippi River to inspect riverbank work south of Memphis, Tenn. M.E. Norman never made it back to the dock, and more than 30 people died.

The 1-year-old sternwheeler, which was trailing Choctaw, developed a starboard list and abruptly capsized near Cow Island Bend, south of downtown Memphis near the Mississippi state line. Many passengers were tossed overboard while others struggled to escape from enclosed spaces.

Tom Lee witnessed the 113-foot sternwheeler capsize from his small outboard boat. He made several trips to the sunken vessel, ferrying passengers back to land. News accounts suggest Lee rescued 32 people, earning him national acclaim. Tom Lee Park, located along the river in Memphis, is named for him.

Authorities never determined why the steamer capsized.

By Professional Mariner Staff