Ship loses power, avoids collision but runs aground at Charleston

A general cargo ship carrying construction equipment and containers lost propulsion and ran aground near the entrance to Charleston Harbor.

The 430-foot HR Recommendation was inbound toward Charleston, S.C., and preparing to pass the outbound containership Sealand Eagle when it lost power and began veering toward the starboard side, said John Cameron, executive director of the Charleston Branch Pilots Association.

HR Recommendation left the channel and ran aground in soft sand near Sullivan’s Island at about 1823 on Dec. 11, 2012. Cameron said the ship completely left the channel and became stuck in about 15 feet of water.

“When power was lost, the pilot issued rudder commands to make sure the meeting was successful,” Cameron said in a phone interview. “However … he wasn’t able to keep the vessel from going aground on the right side of the channel.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the grounding, but hasn’t released a report on its cause, said Petty Officer Jessica Potter of Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville. She declined to release details.

Cameron wasn’t sure why HR Recommendation lost power. He said the ship lost power around the same time a problem was reported in the engine room.

Nobody was injured and there was no environmental damage, the Coast Guard said. The vessel also was undamaged.

The Liberian-flagged HR Recommendation was bound for the Columbus Street Terminal from Houston when the accident occurred just inside Charleston Harbor. The ship lost propulsion as the approaching 958-foot Sealand Eagle was just a few ship lengths away, Cameron said.

“Of the two outcomes, certainly this was the better scenario (than running into Sealand Eagle),” Cameron said.

The grounding did not hinder maritime traffic in the area although a safety zone was set up around the stranded ship, according to Allison Skipper, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Ports Authority.

HR Recommendation is owned by Hammonia Reederei of Hamburg, Germany. The company did not respond to requests for comment on the accident.

Three tugboats from Moran Towing’s North Charleston office — Cape May, Diane Moran and Elizabeth Turecamo — responded shortly after the grounding and tried to pull the vessel off the strand during ebb tide, Cameron said. They were unable to free it until the next high tide, at about 0519 the next morning.

“Tugs freed the ship during high tide and under her own engine power,” Skipper said, adding that the vessel later docked at the Columbus Street Terminal.

She said the vessel was in Charleston to load project cargo bound for Port Fortaleza, in northeast Brazil. The ship left the harbor for South America at about 0200 on Dec. 14.

Cameron said the same pilot who was aboard when it ran aground guided it safely out of Charleston.

By Professional Mariner Staff