Operator fined $75K after not reporting box ship’s engine failure

The U.S. Coast Guard has fined Japanese shipping company K-Line $75,000 for neglecting to report the failure of a containership’s main engine for more than 10 hours.

The propulsion trouble happened aboard the 874-foot Bangkok Bridge in Alaska’s Unimak Pass on Feb. 20, 2013. The box ship went adrift for several hours.

The Code of Federal Regulations requires mariners to report hazardous conditions and marine casualties, and “the remote location of the vessel and the limited response assets for a vessel of this size” could have resulted in a much worse scenario, according to Paul Mehler, captain of the port of Western Alaska.

The investigation began when the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment in Dutch Harbor received a report of a vessel in trouble in the pass, an area near the Aleutian Islands heavily trafficked by commercial vessels. Reviewing the Automatic Identification System, Coast Guard personnel identified the Panamanian-flagged Bangkok Bridge, owned by Fukujin Kisen KK and chartered by K-Line. The vessel’s track line showed it had been drifting near the eastern shipping lane.

The ship was en route from Shanghai, China, to Long Beach, Calif., following the great circle route traveled by thousands of commercial ships each year as the shortest path between ports on either side of the North Pacific. A vessel adrift in the shipping lanes could pose a significant threat to other traffic.

Coast Guard personnel contacted the vessel’s crew, which reported the failure of the main engine. Lt. Jim Fothergill said MSD Dutch Harbor readied the cutter Munro to tow the distressed ship, but called off the mission when the crew of Bangkok Bridge managed to restart the engines of the three-year-old vessel around 2200 that same day. The Coast Guard ordered the ship to Dutch Harbor for repairs and inspection, and a few days later, cleared it to complete its voyage.

A Coast Guard spokesman, Petty Officer Shawn Eggert, said the case had been closed, but he did not have any additional information about the specifics of the engine failure or whether the company had appealed the fine. Calls to K-Line were not returned.

There were no reports of injuries, damage or pollution. In June, after a month-long investigation by Sector Anchorage and MSD Dutch Harbor, the Coast Guard assessed K-Line a $75,000 penalty for the Bangkok Bridge crew’s failure to report the hazardous condition.

By Professional Mariner Staff