Maritime Casualty News, October 2014

Coast Guard urges safe tank barge cleaning to prevent explosions

The U.S. Coast Guard is recommending that personnel involved with tank cleaning, stripping or gas freeing of flammable cargoes review industry safety guidelines. 

As a result of recent casualties involving explosions during tank cleaning, the Oct. 9 alert highlights the importance of following safety procedures based on international standards. In those incidents, key personnel didn’t follow procedures outlined in an operating manual, the alert said.

“A review of related casualties has revealed that vessel personnel, facility personnel and shoreside managers failed to ensure that established procedures and safe practices were followed,” the Coast Guard said in the alert.

“Specifically, the operational manuals and regulatory requirements were not routinely followed by those involved. As a result, unintended and disastrous consequences occurred.”

The alert said crews should follow the International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals (ISGOTT), 5th edition, and take steps to ensure those guidelines are followed.

After reviewing the ISGOTT standards, the alert recommends that supervisors and other key personnel make sure company manuals are complete and that staff are properly trained and credentialed. It recommends minimizing other vessel operations near the facility during tank cleaning or gas freeing to reduce ignition sources.

To view the Coast Guard’s full Safety Alert, click here

Crews rescued after two dredge vessels sink at Mobile

Two vessels performing dredging work in the Mobile Ship Channel sank during bad weather, and a third vessel working in the area rescued their crews.

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the sinkings, which occurred at about 2245 on Oct. 15. Local media reported the vessels sank during a period of bad storms in the Mobile region.

The towing vessel Miss Sammy Lee responded to the 52-foot towing vessel Delta Amber and the 26-foot dredging vessel Nicholas, according to a Coast Guard news release. All three were conducting dredging operations.

Once crew from the sinking vessels were aboard Miss Sammy Lee, a Coast Guard small response boat carried them to a nearby marina.

Nobody was hurt during the incident. A mile-long sheen was reported around the sinkings. Response teams installed boom around the vessels, which were carrying a combined 2,000 gallons of fuel and lube oil, the Coast Guard said.

Safety Alert urges barge fleets to follow lighting rules

In an Oct. 9 safety alert, the U.S. Coast Guard urged barge fleet owners and operators to make sure their vessels have sufficient lighting in accordance with federal requirements for inland waterways.

The Coast Guard published new Inland Navigation Rules in July 2014 that included, among other things, a requirement for an unobstructed white light that could be seen for at least 1 nm.

The alert strongly recommends that all vessel operators, particularly those of recreational vessels, be extremely vigilant during nighttime hours and during periods of strong currents, reduced visibility or when facing other challenges posed by barge fleets.

Failure to follow these lighting rules can be deadly.

Marine casualty data from the past 12 years show 44 recreational vessels have struck moored barges within barge fleets, resulting in 26 fatalities and 44 injuries within the Coast Guard Eighth District. The district stretches from West Virginia to North Dakota to Wyoming and Texas and includes many major U.S. inland waterways, including the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers.

Click here to view the full text of the Coast Guard’s Safety Alert.

Casualty flashback: November 1975

SS Edmund Fitzgerald went down in Lake Superior 39 years ago next month, killing all 29 crew. The accident occurred during a severe storm that produced 30-foot waves and hurricane-force winds.

The accident occurred as the vessel was sailing from Superior, Wis., to a steel mill near Detroit, with more than 26,500 tons of taconite pellets. The vessel sank Nov. 10, 1975, roughly 17 miles outside Whitefish Bay.

Although most believe the storm caused the 729-foot Edmund Fitzgerald to go down, the exact cause has never been determined. Theories about the accident suggest a flooded cargo hold, grounding on a shoal, topside damage or structural damage brought down the massive freighter.

The lack of watertight bulkheads, poor weather forecasting, inaccurate navigational charts and complacency by the captain and crew possibly contributed to the accident.

Edmund Fitzgerald remains the largest vessel to sink in the Great Lakes. The accident spurred several regulatory changes, including requirements that ships carry survival suits, new navigational aids and EPIRBs.

It also resulted in more accurate navigational charts, a new annual Coast Guard inspection program and new models for predicting wave heights.

By Professional Mariner Staff