Steering failure cited in Mardi Gras World collision


The following is text from a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report:

On May 7, 2018, about 1848 local time, the towing vessel Steve Richoux with five crewmembers was downbound on the Mississippi River in New Orleans, La., pushing six loaded cement barges when a steering system failure occurred. The pilot and the captain tried to regain steering control of the vessel. Despite their efforts, Steve Richoux struck the Mardi Gras World pier at mile 98. No pollution or injuries were reported; estimated property damage exceeded $3 million. 

Steve Richoux, a twin-propeller towing vessel, was powered by two Caterpillar 3508 diesel engines capable of producing 1,800 horsepower. The vessel was built in 1976 by Calumet Shipbuilding Co. in Morgan City, La. It was owned by Marquette Transportation and home-ported in New Orleans. 

At 1847 on May 7, the pilot aboard Steve Richoux radioed that he was losing control of the downbound vessel. Nearby towing vessels offered assistance and proceeded toward the Steve Richoux. As the tow continued to approach the left descending bank of the river, the pilot placed both engines full astern, sounded the general alarm to warn the crew, and blew the vessel’s whistle to warn the people on the wharf and inside a warehouse, known as Mardi Gras World, on the waterfront. 

Probable cause: The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the contact of the Steve Richoux tow with the Mardi Gras World pier was a loss of steering control due to a recurring yet unreported problem with the vessel’s steering system.

Click here to read the NTSB accident brief. 

By Professional Mariner Staff