From the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):
(WASHINGTON) — On June 8, 2019, about 1215 local time, the upbound bulk carrier Century Queen, with a crew of 21, and the downbound towing vessel Kaytlin Marie, with seven crewmembers on board, collided on the Lower Mississippi River at mile 126 near Hahnville, La., while transiting through a river bend. Three injuries were reported aboard Kaytlin Marie, which spilled a reported 8,954 gallons of diesel fuel into the river. Damage to Century Queen ($383,990) and Kaytlin Marie ($991,208) amounted to $1,375,198.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the collision between the bulk carrier Century Queen and the towing vessel Kaytlin Marie was the lack of early and effective communications to confirm a passing arrangement between the two vessels.
Investigators examined and correlated electronic data from Century Queen’s VDR, Kaytlin Marie’s electronic chart systems, and playback of VTS radio and video.
After having passed vessels port-to-port in the stretch of the river downstream of the point at Hahnville, Century Queen maneuvered to the right descending bank to avoid the swift current. The towboat Repentance, downbound and pushing one barge, contacted the bulk carrier by VHF radio. The Inland Rules give the downbound vessel on the Western Rivers the right of way in head-on situations. The rules also require the downbound vessel to “propose the manner of passage” and “make the appropriate maneuvering signals.” After being hailed by Repentance, which was following the left descending bank, Century Queen suggested a starboard-to-starboard passing to which Repentance agreed. The vessels passed safely at about 1213.
About 0.5 mile astern of Repentance, Kaytlin Marie was also downbound and favored the left descending bank prior to the accident bend. However, the pilot chose to maneuver to the right descending bank while rounding the point. The towboat started toward the point following the radio conversation between Repentance and Century Queen. Per the rules, Kaytlin Marie also had the right of way as the downbound vessel but, unlike Repentance, did not contact Century Queen to propose a manner of passing. The Kaytlin Marie pilot told investigators he preferred to maintain the right descending bank to avoid the current on the opposite bank and that in his experience deep-draft ships typically kept to the middle of the channel, avoiding the fleets of barges on the right descending bank. He also told investigators he did not call Century Queen because it appeared to him that the ship was maintaining the center of the channel and that light boats did not normally call to make passing arrangements.
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