Tugboat goes adrift after engine fire, bumps into barge in Hawaii

A tugboat shipping mixed cargo from Seattle to Honolulu caught fire, lost power and collided with its tow near Maui.

The 5,100-hp Phyllis Dunlap experienced a fire in the engine room at 1400 on Dec. 5, 2012, resulting in a complete loss of propulsion. The captain notified U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu and activated the engine room’s fire suppression system, which extinguished the fire by 1430.

The 380-foot barge in tow, Westward Trader, collided with the tug after the engines were disabled, resulting in superficial damage to both tug and barge. All six crewmembers were accounted for with no injuries.

The accident happened about 70 miles northwest of Maui. In response to a mayday call at 1405, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu launched an airplane and a helicopter.

At 2100, Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island arrived on scene to assess the damage. The unharmed Phyllis Dunlap crew was advised to stay aboard the vessel until an assist tug responded. Kokua, a 4,000-hp Sause Brothers offshore tug, arrived and established a tow at 2215. The crew arrived in Honolulu on Dec. 7.

As of February, the incident was still under investigation by the Coast Guard and the cause undetermined, said Lt. Leigh Cotterell of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu.

At the time of the fire, Phyllis Dunlap was engaged in cargo shipment for Aloha Cargo Transport, a division of Northland Services Marine Transportation. The tugboat is owned by Dunlap Towing Co., based in Everett, Wash.

Neither Dunlap Towing nor Aloha Cargo Transport responded to requests for comment.

By Professional Mariner Staff