Maritime Casualty News, October 2017

One dead, one missing after Texas barge explosion

One crewman died and another is missing after an explosion and fire on an articulated tug-barge underway near Corpus Christi, Texas.

The incident occurred at about 0430 on Oct. 20 aboard the barge B255, which was paired with the 6,140-hp tugboat Buster Bouchard. Both are operated by Bouchard Transportation of Melville, N.Y.

The explosion occurred near the bow of the barge, which was loaded with about 133,000 barrels of crude oil. The vessel was roughly three miles off the Port Aransas jetties at the time.

The body of Dujour Vanterpool, 26, of Houston, was found on Padre Island on Oct. 23. Another crewman, Zachariah Jackson, remains missing, according to local news reports. The U.S. Coast Guard called off its search for the two men after looking for more than 36 hours.

An unknown amount of oil escaped from the damaged barge. Some oil was found on nearby islands and authorities laid boom in some locations to minimize the environmental impact, although lightering conducted shortly after the accident apparently stopped the leak, the Coast Guard said in a news release. Oil spill response organizations deployed skimmers to remove petroleum from the seawater, and land-based teams responded to pollution that reached shore.

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident but has not yet determined the cause.

Tall ship loses propulsion, hits boats in Newport Harbor

An educational tall ship lost propulsion and struck four recreational boats after a dock line became entangled in both of the vessel’s propellers, the Coast Guard said.

The 200-foot Oliver Hazard Perry was leaving a seafood festival in Newport, R.I., for its dock a short distance away when it lost propulsion and drifted into the vessels docked in Newport Harbor. The accident occurred at about 1815 on Oct. 15.

The tall ship's crew dropped anchor to slow the vessel and prevent it from running aground, according to Coast Guard Sector Boston.

The three-masted, steel-hulled ship had 12 crew on board at the time. No one was injured. The extent of damage to the four recreational boats was not available. Oliver Hazard Perry sustained minor damage.

USS John S. McCain damaged further during transit

USS John S. McCain, damaged in a collision in late August that killed 10 American sailors, sustained a hull fracture while aboard a heavy-lift ship that was taking the destroyer to Yokosuka, Japan, for repairs.

The warship apparently sustained a 4-inch crack in early October while loaded on the Malta-flagged M/V Treasure, which encountered rough seas from Typhoon Lan. Treasure diverted to the Philippines to allow for an inspection of the crack found amidships on McCain's starboard side, according to the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI).

“Once pierside, experts will inspect the crack and determine if any additional repairs are needed before continuing to Yokosuka,” Cmdr. Clay Doss told USNI. “M/V Treasure had already slowed because of the storm, and pulling in allows inspection of the small crack while the weather improves.”

The 600-foot Liberia-flagged tanker Alnic MC struck the 505-foot guided-missile destroyer on its port side before dawn near the Straits of Malacca on Aug. 21. The incident caused significant damage to the American warship, and initial repairs were expected to cost at least $223 million.

Casualty flashback: October 1954

The U.S.-flagged cargo ship SS Mackmorite left Brazil with a load of iron ore and cocoa beans in late September 1954. Less than two weeks later, as it approached its destination in Baltimore, the vessel took on water, capsized and sank off Cape Henry, Va., in rough weather. Thirty-seven of the 48 people on board the ship died.

Coast Guard investigators determined that the 439-foot ship received a “hammerlike blow” on its starboard side from one or more waves at about 0900 on Oct. 7. The impact, combined with strong winds, caused the cargo to shift, and within 15 minutes the ship was listing 25 degrees to port. In this condition, its weather deck and No. 4 cargo hatch were awash.

“The list to port progressively increased, the stack began taking water, and the crew abandoned the vessel by walking and jumping into the sea. By 0945, the vessel rolled over on the port side and sank stern first,” the Coast Guard said in a report released after the accident.

Although the radio operator told other crew he requested help, there is no evidence such a message was sent. The Coast Guard learned the ship was overdue about 30 hours after it sank, spurring a search by air and water.

Crew assembled on deck in life jackets before the ship went down. Survivors sought refuge on doors, ladders and other debris. Sharks reportedly attacked some of the crew as they waited for help.

The vessel had two large lifeboats suspended from davits that were inaccessible after the profound list developed between 0900 and 0915. As a result, the Coast Guard recommended that vessels carry additional buoyant apparatus for situations when lifeboats cannot be launched.

In the final accident report, the Coast Guard said the master was negligent for allowing cargo to be loaded in a manner that it could shift, and for failing to prepare crew to abandon ship. It also noted his failure to direct the radio operator to send a distress message or radio message seeking help.

By Professional Mariner Staff