Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lessons Learned: A Turn for the Worse—Part 1

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Ms. Carolyn Steele.

Lessons learned from USCG casualty reports are regularly featured in Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine. These articles explore marine incidents and the causal factors, outline the subsequent U.S. Coast Guard marine casualty investigations, and describe the lessons learned as a result.

A routine passage turns tragic.
The pre-dawn hours of Sept. 20, 2006, were clear and calm as cargo ship M/V Barkald set out from Bridgeport, Conn., into Long Island Sound. The pilot was familiar with this ship and crew, having piloted the vessel twice before. The cargo of coal had been unloaded, the anchor heaved, and the ship rode high in the water as she began her voyage. No one could have predicted impending tragedy—a sailboat impaled upon the cargo ship’s bow, and a life lost.

Pre-collision: Aboard the Cargo Ship
At 10 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2006, the captain arrived aboard at Bridgeport. He and the pilot discussed the intended route through the sound, which would have the ship transit north of Stratford Shoals.

Around 2:30 a.m. on September 20, the cargo ship left the anchorage. By 3 a.m., the ship was clearing Stratford Shoals and was brought up to full speed of 15 knots.

A radio call came at 4:04 a.m. The person on the radio referred to “the vessel off my port side.”

At that time, the pilot, who did not respond, was at the port radar; after the call, he went over to the windows on the starboard side of the ship. Both the pilot and the second mate stated that they saw a sailboat’s green and white lights, and both estimated that the smaller vessel was about 1,000 feet off their starboard bow.

Just seconds after the first call, they received a second. After this brief radio exchange, the pilot saw the yacht make a 10-degree course change to starboard, which brought the two vessels even closer together. The pilot responded on the radio, asking if the smaller vessel intended to stay clear of his ship. The yacht’s helmsman assured him that he would stay clear. The pilot then went out to the starboard bridge wing to watch the yacht make what he thought would be a close starboard-to-starboard passing.

Moments later, the pilot saw the yacht come suddenly hard to starboard, crossing in front of his ship. The pilot immediately called to stop the engines, but it was too late. The yacht collided with the cargo ship’s bow, which struck the yacht’s port side at nearly midship.

The cargo ship’s speed at the time of impact was 15knots, and the yacht’s speed was eight knots, making a closing speed of 23 knots. The immediate response aboard the cargo ship was to contact the yacht, call the Coast Guard, and lower a lifeboat.

The story continues in Part 2.

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