Navigation News December 2011

All but one survive after dive boat sinks

One woman could not be revived after a commercial dive boat sank on Dec. 18 off of the Florida Keys. There were eight passengers aboard the 25-foot vessel Get Wet as it started to take on water near Molasses Reef.

The U.S. Coast Guard was alerted around 1400 by Visibility, a good Samaritan vessel, which was able to rescue seven survivors. Witnesses said it took about two minutes for the boat to sink.

Two passengers were trapped inside the cabin as the boat sank. According to the Miami Herald, both were unconscious when they were retrieved from inside the vessel, but only one was revived and he is currently in critical condition at Baptist Hospital in Miami.

Get Wet is owned and operated by Key Largo Scuba Shack. The company has suspended operations while investigators determine the cause of the accident. The Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are investigating. Seatow was able to salvage the vessel and tow it to land on Dec. 19.

Tanker and cargo vessel collide in Houston Ship Channel

Two vessels collided in thick fog around 0800 in the Houston Ship Channel on Dec. 13, forcing the closure a portion of the channel as a precautionary measure.

The 635-foot tanker Charleston was carrying the chemical acetone and the 623-foot bulk carrier Harvest Sun had no cargo aboard. There were no injuries or pollution. “There’s a gash in one of the ships above the water line so there’s no leaking in the ship,†said Capt. James Whitehead, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston.

The Houston Pilots and the Texas City Pilots had already suspended boardings that morning due to the fog. “We have to wait for the weather to lift. Then both those ships will go off either to a dock or to an anchorage and then both ships will have to be repaired before they leave the port,†Whitehead said.

According to the Coast Guard, the U.S.-flagged Charleston was northbound, headed to Houston. The Marshall Islands-flagged Harvest Sun was southbound, headed from Houston to Texas City.

Cargo vessel adrift after losing steering

Singapore-flagged Morning Cedar reported a loss of steering to the U.S. Coast Guard on Dec. 5, in the Bering Sea.

According to a Coast Guard press release, the 650-foot ship was near Tanaga Island, 1,230 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. The ship was en route from Vancouver, Canada, to Japan, with a crew of 23 and a cargo of packed timber. The ship reportedly had 220,000 gallons of bunker C oil and 60,000 gallons of diesel aboard.

A hydraulic leak limited the steering system, causing the rudder to stay hard to starboard, and the crew was unable to repair it. The Coast Guard deployed a Jayhawk helicopter and a Hercules airplane as a precaution and also diverted the cutter Sherman from its Bering Sea patrol to assist the vessel.

Morning Cedar still had propulsion and use of its bow thrusters. Temporary repairs were made at sea by hydraulics experts who were flown in from Seattle, and the ship was underway to Dutch Harbor for permanent repairs on Dec. 9.

Pilot ‘applied port helm too late’

In an Accident Investigation Report recently released by the United Kingdom’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), the pilot of CMA CGM Platon was found to have “applied port helm too late.†The 558-foot containership struck a quay on the south bank of the River Thames in England earlier this year on May 15.

The quay sustained surface damage, but the vessel suffered significant damage to the bow and the forepeak tank was punctured.

The MAIB report concluded, “as CMA CGM Platon’s bow entered the main tidal stream, her stern remained in the downdrain. This, together with the wind acting on her starboard quarter, caused a coupling effect, which resulted in the vessel unexpectedly turning to starboard.†At the time of the accident, visibility was good and the wind was at about 16 knots. Platon was traveling at 8.5 knots. 

It was determined that the tug used during the unberthing operation was released too quickly after Platon’s departure. The Port of London Authority is recommending that vessels leaving the same area “retain the use of a tug until they have fully entered the stream when a strong tidal counter-flow is present off the berth.â€

The accident did not result in any pollution or injuries.

Amver vessel rescues 93 Egyptian fishermen

An overcrowded fishing boat in the Mediterranean Sea required the assistance of an Amver (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue system) vessel when it became disabled on Nov. 25. The 274-foot research vessel Atlantis was 40 miles away, beginning an oceanographic research expedition, when it responded to the Greek coast guard’s mayday call for the fishing boat at around 2100. 

All 93 Egyptian fishermen were safety brought aboard Atlantis and later transported to Greece. The fishing boat was abandoned with power and lights left on, and its position was relayed to the Greek coast guard. The research vessel’s captain had to put his ship’s own safety first, and locked down all the hatches so the fishermen couldn’t gain access to ship controls.

Atlantis is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, based in Falmouth, Mass. According to a Woods Hole press release, “the Atlantis crew provided blankets, pillows, and clothing, including dry socks for the Egyptians, who had been standing in water aboard their boat and were cold, hungry, and dehydrated.â€

Casualty flashback: December 1789

Christmas Eve in 1789 brought hardship to the 44-gun Roebuck-class HMS Guardian when the ship hit an iceberg. Amazingly, the crew was able to keep the ship barely afloat for 400 leagues (1,200 miles) until it grounded at the Cape of Good Hope in what is now South Africa.

The 140-foot HMS Guardian was under command of Lt. Edward Riou, who was sailing it to Botany Bay, Australia. The ship was transporting seeds, plants, farm machinery, livestock and convicts. When an iceberg was found, Capt. Riou ordered some of his crew to go collect some ice to replenish their stock of fresh water. By the time they were done, night had fallen and they lost view of the iceberg. Lookouts were posted and at 2100, when they thought they were in the clear, the ship’s stern smashed into the iceberg.

The crew was able to slow the flooding of the holds with pumps and the use of an oakum-packed studding sail covering a gash in the stern. On Christmas Day, the sail split under pressure and 259 of the 321 people on board chose to abandon ship. The remaining crew were able to remain afloat with another sail covering the gash and with continuous use of the pumps. Also contributing to their buoyancy were casks, which had broken free and were floating in the hold, trapped under the lower gundeck. Hatches were sealed in an effort to preserve the buoyancy until they could reach land. They managed to keep HMS Guardian afloat for nine weeks before intentionally grounding at the Cape of Good Hope.

Of the 259 who abandoned ship, only 15 survived. The ship was wrecked shortly after, in April 1790, and the remains were later sold.

By Professional Mariner Staff