Tanker crashes into Baltimore coal dock, causing $22M in damage


A tanker struck a coal-unloading pier in Baltimore, heavily damaging the facility and shutting it down for months. The ship was briefly arrested while the dock owner pursued a damage claim that grew to $22 million.

The 479-foot Wawasan Ruby, a Panama-flagged tank vessel, hit CSX Transportation’s Chesapeake Bay Marine Facility at Curtis Bay on Aug. 25, 2012. The ship was en route to the nearby Bitumar dock when it went off-course.

The accident occurred at 1241 under cloudy skies and light wind. The ship was inbound from the Curtis Bay Channel. The crew intended to head south toward the Bitumar pier.

The accident resulted in damage to the railroad pier, shore side equipment and the vessel’s bow bulb, said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Michael Patterson. One shoreside employee was injured as a result of the vessel impact with the structure. The individual was hospitalized and released. No pollution resulted.

After assessing Wawasan Ruby’s seaworthiness, the Coast Guard relocated the ship to Baltimore Anchorage No. 4 for Port State Control examination and marine casualty investigation. A state pilot was aboard the vessel when it crashed. The pilot was tested for drugs and alcohol and the results were negative.

A Coast Guard examination of the ship was conducted immediately following the accident and no problems were found. CSX stated in court documents that when its appointed surveyor attempted to board the ship to conduct his own investigation, access to the vessel was denied by the master.

CSX, fearing that the Panama-flagged vessel would leave port before it could pursue a claim, won a court order to temporarily detain Wawasan Ruby, according to U.S. District Court documents. The federal judge allowed the vessel to leave only after its owner, Trio Happiness SA of Panama, provided a letter of undertaking guaranteeing payment if CSX were to win a judgment.

The Coast Guard convened a formal investigation of the incident Aug. 27. That probe is ongoing. The National Transportation Safety Board and State of Maryland Department of Labor notified the Coast Guard that they will be conducting independent investigations. The Association of Maryland Pilots also will conduct an investigation, said the pilots’ president, Capt. Eric A. Nielsen.

Patterson said that combined work-loss and damage estimates appears to be about $22 million.

Phone and e-mail messages to the U.S.-based lawyer for Trio Happiness were not returned. Calls and e-mails to CSX and their attorneys were not returned.

By Professional Mariner Staff