NTSB: Distracted pilots, lack of sleep were factors in Eagle Otome crash

The following is the text of a press release issued by the National Transportation Safety Board:
(WASHINGTON) — The National Transportation Safety Board
determined today that the failure of Eagle Otome’s first
pilot to correct sheering motions that began as a result of
the late initiation of a turn at a mild bend in the waterway
was the probable cause of the January 23, 2010, collision of
the tankship Eagle Otome with cargo vessel Gulf Arrow and
the subsequent collision with Dixie Vengeance tow.

Contributing to the collisions, which caused an estimated
462,000 gallons of oil to spill into the Sabine-Neches
canal, was the first pilot’s fatigue, caused by his
untreated obstructive sleep apnea and his work schedule,
which did not permit time for adequate sleep; and his
distraction from conducting a radio call, which the second
pilot should have handled in accordance with guidelines; and
the lack of effective bridge resource management by both
pilots. Also contributing to the accident was lack of
oversight by the Jefferson and Orange County Board of Pilot

“The NTSB has long been concerned about fatigue in the
marine industry, and this accident highlights the very real
consequences of degraded performance,” said NTSB Chairman
Deborah A.P. Hersman. “Additionally, guidelines for

operating in this tricky stretch of waterway were
established 30 years ago to increase the margin of safety
and offset human error, but unfortunately, in this accident,
they were not followed.”

As a result of this accident, the NTSB issued 10 new safety
recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Jefferson and
Orange County Board of Pilot Commissioners, the Sabine
Pilots Association, the governors of states and territories
in which state and local pilots operate, and the American
Pilots’ Association. The Safety Board also reiterated a
previously issued recommendation to the U.S. Coast Guard.

A synopsis of the NTSB report, including the probable cause,
findings, and a complete list of the safety recommendations,
is available on the NTSB’s website. The NTSB’s full report
will be available on the website in several weeks.

By Professional Mariner Staff