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NTSB: Watertight doors were left open in Louisiana OSV sinking

Apr 29, 2015 05:27 PM

A junior master’s inability to compensate for wind likely caused an offshore supply vessel to strike an oil platform off Louisiana two years ago, investigators determined.

The 112-foot supply vessel Celeste Ann was holed and sank in the June 14, 2013, incident. Watertight doors were left open, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a January 2015 report.  

Passengers from the West Delta platform 73 A, 20 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La., had boarded the vessel when it struck the oil platform at 0836. Underwater protrusions from the platform and open watertight doors on the vessel contributed to the hull’s breach and the boat’s sinking, the NTSB said. 

Celeste Ann is owned by B&J Martin Inc. in Galliano, La. The platform is operated by Energy XXI of Houston. 

With a crew of four, the vessel arrived at the oil platform at 0810 that day to pick up passengers. The vessel’s junior master and a deck hand were working a midnight-to-noon watch. The junior master backed the boat into the landing area and held it there. Celeste Ann’s position was stern into the platform, with its bow in a northwest wind of 15 knots in 2- to 4-foot seas. Skies were clear that morning.

From 0820 to 0830, eight passengers boarded the vessel, using a man-lift on the oil platform. Soon afterward, the vessel’s bow began to swing to starboard, the NTSB said in a marine accident brief. Wind pushed the boat sideways toward the oil platform. Celeste Ann’s junior master tried to maneuver the boat away from the platform. However, he could not overcome the wind on the vessel’s beam.

The vessel struck the oil platform at 0836. The starboard side hit the platform twice before the junior master was able to back the vessel away, the investigators wrote. The hull was punctured. The boat’s deck hand went to the engine room to check for damage and found flooding from a 2-foot gash on the starboard side.

After sounding a general alarm, the junior master passed through a watertight door on the port-side main deck, climbed down a ladder into the pump room and went through another watertight door into the engine room, which was aft of the pump room. He saw water in the bilges approaching the deck plates. The junior master turned on the bilge pumps and a fire pump capable of bilge suction. But he didn’t close any of the watertight doors before returning to the bridge, the NTSB said. 

Celeste Ann, with its watertight doors left open, flooded and sank at 1000, discharging an undetermined amount of oil products into Gulf waters, the NTSB said. The Coast Guard estimated the vessel’s flooding rate at more than 1,000 gallons a minute.

The passengers and crew evacuated to Odyssea Endeavor, a nearby offshore supply vessel. No one was injured. 

A month later, B&J Martin raised Celeste Ann and took it to Morgan City, La., for repairs. A damage assessment found that the boat’s first impact with the platform formed a hole 2 inches wide in the vessel, about 7 feet below the waterline near the pump room. A second impact with the platform left two holes in the engine room — one an inch in diameter, located 6 feet below the waterline, and another about 1 foot by 1 inch and situated a foot below the first hole. The cost of salvaging and repairing the vessel was estimated at $1 million.

B&J Martin didn’t respond to requests for comment about Celeste Ann’s sinking. The U.S.-flagged, 93-gross-ton vessel was built in 1979.

After the accident, the oil platform operator made an underwater assessment of the landing area at West Delta 73 A platform. A vertical pipe on the platform was arranged with a clamp that attached the vessel’s landing to the platform. The clamp’s two horizontal protrusions, extending off of the vertical pipe, were believed to have punctured the Celeste Ann’s hull.

Greg Smith, vice president of investor relations at Energy XXI, said he had no comment about the platform.

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