The following is a marine accident brief from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):
(WASHINGTON) — On March 7, 2019, at 1020 local time, the towing vessel Leviticus was pushing six barges downbound on the Lower Mississippi River at mile 208.5 near Sunshine, La., with a crew of eight on board. While transiting through a river bend, the lead barges of the tow contacted barges moored at the Plaquemine Point Shipyard, breaking free a total of 11 barges. The 27 shipyard workers on board the barges were able to evacuate before contact; 10 sustained minor injuries. All barges were later recovered, and no pollution was reported. Damage to the shipyard ($520,000) and the tow ($19,500) amounted to an estimated $539,500.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the contact of the Leviticus tow with the Plaquemine Point Shipyard was the captain’s decision to continue the training of an apprentice mate/steersman while navigating a challenging river bend downbound and meeting upbound traffic in high-water conditions.
Per company policy, samples for postaccident toxicological testing were taken from all crewmembers aboard Leviticus about 1300 on the day of the accident; all results were negative for alcohol. Drug test results were also negative for the crewmembers, except the captain. The captain tested positive for marijuana metabolites (THCA), a reading of 27 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL); negative test results may detect up to 15 ng/mL. He was immediately dismissed by the company, and his merchant mariner credential was revoked by the Coast Guard.
The captain’s THCA sample of 27 ng/mL was almost twice the allowed level. Given that THCA is an inactive metabolite and that urine concentration does not necessarily reflect recent use, it cannot be determined if the captain was under the influence of marijuana.
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