Maritime Casualty News May 2021

NTSB issues preliminary report into Seacor Power incident
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued its preliminary findings into the fatal capsizing of the lift boat Seacor Power on April 13. The final report won’t be out for some time.

The incident occurred about eight miles south of Port Fourchon, La., as the vessel sailed toward an energy platform in Main Pass, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The vessel rolled over at about 1530.

The preliminary findings suggest the vessel encountered stronger weather than anticipated in the Gulf of Mexico. Crew had already begun lowering the vessel’s legs onto the seafloor when the ship capsized.

“Visibility dropped and the winds increased significantly, so crew decided to lower Seacor Power’s legs to the seafloor to hold the vessel in position until the storm passed,” the NTSB report said. “When the legs began to descend, the crewmember at the helm attempted to turn the vessel into the winds. Before the turn was completed, Seacor Power heeled to starboard and capsized.”

The vessel had 19 people on board, nine of whom were vessel crew, and two were galley staff. Eight were offshore workers. The report said some personnel escaped the vessel from the portside of the deckhouse, which remained above water.

“Some who had been clinging to the vessel were washed into the water, and six were eventually rescued. One survivor suffered a serious injury,” the NTSB said. The remains of six people have been found. Seven are still missing.

The NTSB is leading an investigation into the incident with the Coast Guard, Seacor Marine, the National Weather Service and the American Bureau of Shipping. The investigation will likely take at least a year.


Vehicle carrier runs aground in Chesapeake Bay
Coast Guard officials are investigating the grounding of a vehicle carrier in Chesapeake Bay.

The 760-foot Tirranna became stuck on April 27 at about 0330 while transiting from Baltimore to Savannah, Ga. The incident happened near the Cape Charles Anchorage in Chesapeake Bay, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

“With the recent focus on global shipping, we are relieved this incident was quickly resolved and are thankful for the engagement of our port community and interagency team,” Capt. Samson Stevens, Commander Coast Guard Sector Virginia, said in a statement. “The commonwealth’s marine transportation system is vital to the region’s success, prosperity, and economy.”

Nobody on the ship was hurt, and there was no pollution. The ship itself also was not damaged. The Norway-flagged Tirranna was refloated later on April 27. The cause of the incident is still under investigation.


Casualty Flashback: May 1953
Seventeen crewmembers perished when the Great Lakes freighter SS Henry Steinbrenner sank near Isle Royale in Lake Superior on May 11, 1953.

The 427-foot ship built in 1901 departed Superior, Wis., early on May 10 with a load of iron ore bound for steel mills on Lake Erie. The vessel encountered gale force winds and rough seas in the afternoon and evening. Winds reached 75 mph and waves sprayed water onto the deck.

The ship survived the night, but was in bad shape at first light. The captain issued an SOS broadcast at about 0700 on May 11 heard by multiple ships in the region. Some 30 minutes later, he ordered crew to abandon ship as the vessel sank at the stern some 14 miles from Isle Royale, Mich. The vessel’s demise was hastened by waves crashing over the stern into cargo holds.

Some crewmembers entered lifeboats during a chaotic escape from the ship. Fourteen crew survived. Good Samaritan ships rescued several crew, and also recovered the bodies of some deceased crew.

The Steinbrenner sinking was instrumental in convincing Great Lakes ship operators to install sturdier, single-piece watertight hatch covers that provided better protection against downflooding.

By Professional Mariner Staff