Maritime Casualty News November 2020

Coast Guard recommends action for safer pilot transfers
The U.S. Coast Guard is urging shipowners and vessel operators to follow international regulations for pilot transfer arrangements in an effort to improve overall safety.

In a marine safety information bulletin (MSIB) issued on Nov. 5, the service recommends that IMO Resolution A.1045(27) – Pilot Transfer Arrangements be closely followed. The Coast Guard also recommends that standards set forth by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) for safe pilot transfer arrangements to be followed if such equipment is replaced.

“This MSIB is part, and supportive, of a larger international effort to get shipowners to get serious about making pilot transfer arrangements safer,” said Capt. Jorge Viso, president  of the American Pilots’ Association. “The most noteworthy and perhaps most important contribution of the MSIB is that it offers an example of a safer SOLAS-compliant trapdoor arrangement and its necessary features.”

The notice follows two fatalities within a year involving members of the Sandy Hook Pilots Association. Capt. Dennis Sherwood died on Dec. 30, 2019 while boarding the containership Maersk Kensington, which had a trapdoor pilot boarding configuration. Capt. Timothy Murray died Aug. 5, 2020 after falling from a standard pilot ladder while boarding the oil tanker Eagle Turin.

The MSIB, with the graphic showing a safer trapdoor arrangement, can be viewed here:

Virginia bridge closed indefinitely after towboat strike
The Coast Guard is investigating a bridge strike near Chesapeake, Va., involving a towboat and at least one barge that caused substantial damage to the span.

The service and a spokesman for the city of Chesapeake have thus far refused to identify the vessels involved. The two government entities also have refused to provide other basic details, including the direction the vessels were traveling, what part of the bridge they hit, and whether the vessels were damaged.

A spokesperson in the Coast Guard 5th District public affairs office in nearby Portsmouth, Va., did not respond to an inquiry from Professional Mariner seeking additional information.

The incident happened at 0446 on Nov. 14. The Centerville Turnpike Bridge is owned and operated by the city of Chesapeake, and it carries roughly 16,000 vehicles a day over the Intracoastal Waterway. The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the incident.

Two rescued after tow, pontoon boat collide in North Carolina
A tugboat and barge underway on the Intracoastal Waterway near Emerald Isle, N.C., collided with a pontoon boat, resulting in the rescue of two people from the water, the Coast Guard reported.

The vessels collided on Nov. 3  near the Emerald Isle high-rise bridge. One person was rescued by crew from a commercial salvage company, and a good Samaritan came to the aid of a second person. Both were later transported to a local hospital.

The Coast Guard did not specify how many people were in the pontoon boat at the time of the collision, what happened to the smaller vessel, or disclose the names of the vessels involved.

The service is investigating but has not released any details about the possible cause.

Casualty flashback: November 1902
The steel-hulled Canadian steamship Bannockburn sank on Nov. 21, 1902, apparently during a snowstorm that passed across Lake Superior. The wreck has never been found, and legend has long suggested the ghost of Bannockburn continues to sail the Great Lakes.

The star-crossed ship departed from Fort William, Ontario, near Thunder Bay on Nov. 20, loaded with 85,000 bushels of wheat for a downbound voyage to Georgian Bay in Lake Huron. The transit was temporarily interrupted when the ship grounded leaving the harbor, but Bannockburn got underway again on Nov. 21.

Other captains aboard Great Lakes freighters spotted the 245-foot ship throughout the day. In one account, a ship captain reported seeing Bannockburn with binoculars multiple times over several minutes. A minute or two later, the ship was nowhere to be found. Crewmen aboard a passenger steamer claimed they saw the ship at about 2300 during a powerful winter storm, but they could not be sure it was Bannockburn.

In any case, the vessel was never seen again after Nov. 21. All 20 of its crew died and their remains were never located in Lake Superior’s frigid waters. Some believe debris spotted four days later near Stannard Rock Light, roughly 45 miles north of Marquette, Mich., came from Bannockburn.

Bannockburn’s legend as a ghost ship reportedly began not long after its disappearance. An account included in a book published in 1909 burnished that reputation. There have been countless Bannockburn sightings over the years, often by sailors during lonely watches on foggy nights.

By Professional Mariner Staff