NTSB: Erratic steering of OSV led to Sabine Pass collision, fuel spill

The mate at the helm ignored concerns voiced by the on-watch AB and engineer

(WASHINGTON) — ­­­ The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that the erratic steering of a supply vessel led to a 2019 collision resulting in more than 6,000 gallons of diesel oil being dumped into the Sabine Pass, a busy waterway between Texas and Louisiana.

The NTSB released Marine Accident Brief 21/08 detailing its investigation of the collision between offshore supply vessel Cheramie Bo Truc No. 22 and the articulated tug-barge (ATB) Mariya Moran/Texas on Nov. 14, 2019, in the Sabine Pass jetty channel, Port Arthur, Texas.

The NTSB said the probable cause of the collision was Cheramie Bo Truc No. 22 turning into the path of Mariya Moran/Texas. Damages from the collision exceeded $1.8 million, and the waterway was closed for a time for the diesel oil spill cleanup.

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The port side of Cheramie Bo Truc No. 22 after the collision, showing the compromised No. 1 port fuel tank and oil spillage. Coast Guard photo

During the accident sequence, the on-watch AB and engineer expressed concern to the mate of Cheramie Bo Truc No. 22 regarding his erratic steering. The mate ignored them, yet neither the on-watch AB nor the engineer notified the captain.

A post-collision alcohol test administered by the captain indicated the mate had drank recently but did not demonstrate conclusively that the mate was impaired by alcohol.

“However, attempting to use the autopilot in a channel, nearly colliding with stationary jack-ups, weaving across the channel, ignoring the warnings from the on-watch AB and engineer in the wheelhouse, and suddenly turning in front of (Mariya Moran/Texas) all indicate a degree of misjudgment, impairment and/or incompetence,’’ the NTSB’s report said.

Contributing to the collision was a lack of early communication from both vessels.

“Safe and effective navigation is not one person’s job,’’ the NTSB’s report said. “Bridge resource management includes the concept of teamwork, which is an essential defense against human error. A good team should anticipate dangerous situations and recognize the development of an error chain. If in doubt, team members should speak up or notify a higher authority. Vessel operators should train their crews on and enforce their safety policies.”

To read the complete report, click here.

– National Transportation Safety Board

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