Tugboat rolls on its side after striking tanker

A tugboat collided with an oil tanker in January and rolled on its side before righting itself in stormy seas off of Washington.

Two crewmen of the tugboat Sea King suffered minor injuries, but the evidence suggests the accident could have been much worse. When the tug rolled, its crewmembers were tossed about as water poured through the topside hatches and doors, flooding portions of the vessel. Its propellers were damaged when they gashed holes into the bulbous bow of the tanker Allegiance.

‘We’re very fortunate there wasn’t more damage or larger losses than there were,’ said Lt. Scott Casad of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Seattle.

The accident occurred at 2200 on Jan. 19 as Sea King and another tug owned by Crowley Marine Services Inc. of Seattle were escorting Allegiance through Rosario Strait off the San Juan Islands in northern Puget Sound. That part of Puget Sound often has stormy conditions as winds whip into the Sound from the Pacific Ocean through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

As the tugs and tanker made their way in heavy winds and waters, Sea King got pulled into the port side of the tanker and rolled onto its side before recovering. Mark Miller, spokesman for Crowley Marine Services, said the tug rolled after the captain turned the vessel sharply to try to avoid the tanker.

The water that filled parts of the tug was removed from the vessel by onboard pumps, the Coast Guard said.

‘No one’s been able to say yet how much it actually listed, 50¼ or 80¼ or whatever,’ Casad said. ‘But it was severe enough that water came in topside into the hatches and doors.’

The tanker, which has a capacity of 10.4 million gallons, was carrying approximately 2.1 million gallons of light-cycle gas oil, a partially refined product similar to diesel, said Dan Reilly, spokesman for Tesoro Petroleum. The cargo was on its way to the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash., for further processing.

Nobody was injured aboard Allegiance, but two crewmembers from Sea King sustained several lacerations and possibly a broken bone, Casad said. The tug’s captain was extremely shaken up by the experience, and a Coast Guard investigator waited two days before interviewing him to give him time to calm down, he added.

Casad said the accident did not result in any pollution, but it damaged both vessels. Sea King sustained damage to its shaft and rudder, and was towed to Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes for repairs, Miller said.

Allegiance, which is owned by Maritrans Inc. of Tampa, Fla., had holes cut into its bulbous bow by Sea King’s propellers, Casad said. After unloading its cargo at the Tesoro refinery, it proceeded to Bellingham, Wash., for a thorough inspection.

The Coast Guard is continuing to investigate the accident to determine the cause of the collision.

By Professional Mariner Staff