NTSB: Failure to establish correct air draft led to fatal towboat accident

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The following is the summary of an accident report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):

Executive summary

About 2355 on Aug. 13, 2014, a crane barge transported by the towing vessel Cory Michael struck the raised lift span of the Florida Avenue Bridge while transiting on the Industrial Canal in New Orleans, La. The crane boom fell onto the towing vessel’s upper wheelhouse, fatally injuring the captain. Damage to the crane and the vessel totaled $2.3 million.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the allision of the Cory Michael tow with the Florida Avenue Bridge was the captain’s failure to establish the correct air draft of his tow and ensure that the bridge was raised to an adequate height before attempting the passage, and the failure of the bridge operator for the Port of New Orleans to raise the lift span to the fullest extent as required by regulations and port policy.

Safety issues identified in this investigation include:

• Inadequate oversight of bridge and towing vessel operations — Investigators learned that the U.S. Coast Guard’s Bridge Administration did not know that the lift span of the Florida Avenue Bridge was not being raised to its fullest extent for vessel passage since Hurricane Katrina damaged the bridge in 2005.
• Inadequate and complacent safety management practices — Although the operating company of the towing vessel had a safety policy in place, it was not being successfully implemented on board. Further, the crane boom was transported in an unsupported and dangerous manner, and the correct air draft of the tow was not established before the attempted transit under the Florida Avenue Bridge.

As a result of this investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes new recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Port of New Orleans, Boh Bros. Construction, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

To view the complete report, click here.

By Professional Mariner Staff