NTSB: Delta Mariner crash at Ky. bridge was caused by failures involving navigation, contract pilot, bridge lighting

The following is the text of a press release issued by the National Transportation Safety Board:

(WASHINGTON) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the 2012 allision of the M/V Delta Mariner with the Eggner’s Ferry Bridge in Kentucky was caused by the reliance of the vessel’s bridge team on the independent contract pilot who provided incorrect navigational direction. Contributing factors included the failure of deck officers on the vessel to use all available navigation tools to verify the vessels position and proper route under the bridge; the failure of the crew to prepare an adequate detailed passage plan; and, the lack of effective management and oversight of the bridge lighting system.

On the evening of January 26, 2012, the Delta Mariner, a U.S.-flagged cargo vessel travelling on the Tennessee River, near Aurora, Kentucky, allided with the partially lit Eggner’s Ferry Bridge as it attempted to pass through the lowest of four navigable spans of the bridge. As a result, a 322-foot span of the bridge, including a portion of U.S. Highway 68, was torn away. 

As the Delta Mariner approached the Eggner’s Ferry Bridge, the crew had at their disposal the Army Corps of Engineers chart book and an electronic charting display system, which would have provided critical information about the vessel’s position and the correct bridge lighting scheme. However, the vessel was directed towards the only lit span and away from the main span that would have provided sufficient clearance.

In addition to the performance of the crew, the investigation found: a lack of effective implementation of the vessel owner’s safety management system; the lack of effective maintenance and oversight of bridge navigational lighting; and the lack of adequately defined responsibilities for the Delta Mariner’s contract pilots.

n the course of its investigation, in April 2012, the NTSB issued two safety recommendations to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) to improve the maintenance of navigational lights on bridges and the need to develop inspection and maintenance procedures to ensure such lighting functions reliably. These safety recommendations were closed last November after the KYTC completed the recommended actions.

For a complete summary of this accident investigation and to view the recommendations the NTSB made to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Highway Administration and Foss Maritime Company, click on the following link: http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2013/aurora_ky/presentations/Abstract_%20Delta_Mariner.pdf.

By Professional Mariner Staff