Poor communications cited as cause of an LPG carrier collision with a state wharf in Washington leading to damage amounting to US$8 million
A pilot sped a 741.5-ft partially-loaded tanker towards a wharf at a steep angle destroyed a south mooring dolphin, and the wharf’s connecting catwalk. The ship’s forward ballast tank was penetrated and flooded. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent U.S. government investigative agency responsible investigation concluded it was from poor bridge resource management by the Puget Sound pilot and the ship’s bridge team.
Distraction 3 minutes before collision
Although no injuries or environmental damage were reported, investigations found possibilities of a “condition of complacency” on the bridge due to short distance from the wharf. The ship’s master prior was reportedly concerned about ensuring a safe under-keel clearance due to a falling tide. He hence decided to pause loading their cargo of propane and butane and take the ship to deeper waters for the night. For the shift to the anchorage, 0.7 miles away, a pilot was brought onboard. The pilot then stayed for the next day’s early morning approach back to the wharf when tidal conditions improved.
Further checks revealed the exchange of information between the master and pilot to be not as detailed compared to the earlier briefing before leaving the wharf. Both personnel were also likely to be distracted by a two-minute, unimportant conversation about three minutes before contact.
NTSB stressed the importance of vigilance of both the pilot and bridge team; it should be heightened when it concerns a vessel’s proximity to dangers and obstructions. It added regardless of the distance or duration of a transit, the bridge resource management fundamentals of planning, communication, use of all available resources and information, monitoring and management of distractions are essential to operations with a pilot on board.
Both shipowners and individuals can also look to Marine Online’s extensive network of service providers for related programmes on navigation training.