Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lessons Learned—Collision, Fire in Tampa Bay—Part III

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine. Click on Part I or Part II for previous entries.

Aboard the Seafarer
After the collision with the outbound freighter, the captain was unable to disconnect the Seafarer from the flaming tank barge.

As heavy, black smoke surrounded the pilothouse, he placed the throttles ahead slow, rudder position hard left, to ground the tow near Mullet Key. He then left the pilothouse to muster personnel.

As noted in the Marine Board of Investigation report:

“[As] captain … and mate … reached the last flight of stairs leading to the wheelhouse, captain … could hear windows exploding and glass hitting the deck. The two men abandoned their attempt to enter the pilothouse.

By now, the smoke had increased to the point that personnel at deck level were having difficulty seeing and breathing. The life raft was inaccessible because of its location on the upper deck. Captain … ordered the crew to abandon ship.

When the crew entered the water … they could see smoke and flames above them. Captain … heard … two or three explosions.

The crew was later rescued by the pilot boat
Manatee. The fire burned throughout the day ... The Seafarer suffered extensive fire damage, and the Ocean 255 was a constructive total loss.”

On the Bridge of the Balsa 37
This vessel was involved in both collisions and suffered much damage. The main concern was that the vessel would capsize or sink and block the channel. As stated in the USCG report:

“Captain … arrived on the bridge and ordered all hands to muster for the emergency and had pilot … take the ship to anchorage near Egmont Key.

As the
Balsa 37 proceeded toward anchorage, the chief mate opened the cargo hatches and observed sea water in both cargo holds ... Concerned for the vessel’s stability, captain … grounded the [vessel] near Egmont Key.

The ship remained aground for several days until lightering and salvage operations could be completed.”

On the Capt. Fred Bouchard
The USCG report set the scene:

“Pilot … immediately made a distress call on Channel 16. Pilot … advised captain … to make a course correction to keep the tow in the channel. He then called the pilot boat Manatee and directed [it] toward the scene to pick up any survivors [from the Seafarer].

Following the two collisions, the [assist tug] initially let out 60 meters of line to move away from possible hazards. After determining it was safe, the master had his crew again make the tug fast alongside the
B. No. 155.

Bouchard tow later anchored approximately one and one-half miles west of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The B. No. 155 was later offloaded and taken to dry dock … for damage survey and repairs.”

In part IV we will explore the aftermath, the conclusions from the Marine Board of Investigation, and lessons learned from this calamity.

For more information:
Full article is available at Click on “archives” and then “2007-08 Vol. 64, Number 4” (Winter 2007-08).

Subscribe online at

Direct requests for print copies of this edition to:


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