Carnival Pride allision probably fault of staff captain: NTSB

The allision of cruise ship Carnival Pride with a pier and passenger walkway at Cruise Maryland Terminal, South Locust Point, Baltimore Harbor, Maryland at 8am local time on May 8th 2016, causing estimated property damage of more than $2m, was probably caused by the staff captain approaching the pier at an excessive speed and at too steep of an angle, while maintaining insufficient oversight during the manoeuvre, according to the results of an inquiry by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The pilot stated that on the day of the accident the vessel was approaching faster than normal, an analysis confirmed by statements from the Carnival Pride’s bridge team. The staff captain misjudged the power available in the joystick mode for correcting the manoeuvre. In the seconds it took him to assess that the joystick control would not be enough to slow the ship, he lost valuable time in shifting to manual control. In his haste to shift control, he was unable to assume manual control at the bridge wing station, an event the staff captain could not explain. The vessel’s operating company was not able to replicate the failed transfer of control from the joystick mode to the manual mode during testing on subsequent voyages. Thus, the company has been unable to determine a cause other than possible human error.

The elevated passenger embarkation walkway, which connected to the vessel’s sideports when embarking and debarking passengers, was retractable and could also be swung away from the side of the pier when not in use. However, on the morning of the accident, the walkway was extended nearly to the water’s edge. If the walkway had been in a position that the flare of the vessel’s bow and the observation and mooring platform could not make contact, damage to the walkway would not have occurred, the NTSB said.

The elevated passenger walkway was destroyed, at an estimated cost of $2m, while the cost of repair or replacement of the three vehicles damaged when the walkway collapsed onto them was $75,000. The retractable observation and mooring platform on the forward starboard side of the Carnival Pride absorbed the majority of the impact with the walkway and was bent out of shape, hanging at the ship’s side. Additional damage to the vessel included scraping and minor indentation to the side shell plating at the flare of the bow approximately 15 feet below the gunwale. Costs of repairs to the Carnival Pride were estimated at $10,000. There was no environmental damage and no injuries to crew or passengers.

Accident details:

The Carnival Pride had been returning to Baltimore from a seven-day round trip cruise to Florida and the Bahamas. It had departed Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, on May 6th and the evening of May 7th it arrived at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay where a Maryland pilot embarked for the transit north toward Baltimore. The addition of a pilot is compulsory for transits through US inland waters.

The vessel’s main propulsion was provided by two azimuthing electric-drive motors and propellers contained in pods outside the hull at the stern of the ship (known as”azipods”). It also had three tunnel thrusters at the bow to provide lateral control forward. Each azipod and thruster could be operated independently via separate controllers, or together via an integrated joystick that combined control of the amount of thrust and direction of all three bow tunnel thrusters and the two stern azipods. All systems worked satisfactorily throughout the cruise and subsequently during the Carnival Pride’s transit up Chesapeake Bay.

At about 4am on May 8th the Carnival Pride slowed near Solomons Island, Maryland, to embark a second pilot to relieve the first pilot, who, after an exchange of the necessary navigational information, went below deck for the remainder of the transit. The second pilot had been a Maryland pilot for 20 years and had navigated numerous about a dozen trips on this vessel, as well as other cruise ships calling in the Port of Baltimore. Although the pilot had developed a familiar working relationship with the Carnival Pride captain during some of these earlier transits, he had never before met the staff captain, the ship’s second in command, who came to the bridge at about 0600 and began overseeing operations.

At 0728, the vessel passed under the Frances Scott Key Bridge at the southeast end of Baltimore Harbour, after which the pilot ordered the azipods reduced to 60 rpm and again to 40 rpm prior to turning into Ferry Bar Channel.

Before the vessel made its turn, the captain arrived on the bridge and conducted a briefing with the bridge team in preparation for docking. The pilot conned the vessel through the turn, steadying on a heading of 270 degrees with the vessel’s speed about 6.8 knots. At that time, the pilot transferred the conn to the staff captain, who accepted by repeating, “Speed 6.8 knots, 270. Perfect. I have the conn.”

By agreement between the Association of Maryland Pilots and the passenger vessels berthing at the cruise ship terminal, the conn was shifted from the pilot to a ship’s officer—in this case the staff captain—for the final approach and docking. Following the changeover, the pilot assumed an advisory role. The staff captain had previous experience, under the captain’s supervision, operating the controls during berthing manoeuvres. Shortly before turning northwest from Ferry Bar Channel into the passenger terminal access channel (known locally as the Fruit Pier Channel), control of the engines and the helm were shifted from the centre console and the stand-alone helm station to the starboard bridge wing console. With a push of a button, the staff captain accepted control of the engines and helm at the console, which was in joystick mode. The joystick tested and operated normally to his satisfaction.

The pier heading at the Cruise Maryland Terminal was 284 degrees, yet, when the bow of the Carnival Pride was about half a ship’s length away from the dock, the vessel was on a heading of 307 degrees at a speed of 5.3 knots. At about that time, the vessel’s voyage data recorder (VDR) recorded the pilot cautioning him, “You need to slow down.”

The staff captain realized that the angle of approach was too steep and that the speed was too fast. In order to gain more thrust as well as control the vessel’s rate of closure with the dock, he attempted to transfer from joystick to manual control at the bridge wing console. This action was intended to provide more direct control of the vessel’s propulsion in order to manoeuvre away from the dock.

Despite repeated attempts, the staff captain’s efforts to transfer control to the manual levers were unsuccessful. As the distance to the dock continued to decrease, the captain took the conn from the staff captain and shifted engine and helm control back to the centre console. Once control returned to the centre console, the captain regained full control of the azipods and thrusters. He then applied full thrust away

from the berth and slowed the ship’s forward progress, but not before the bulbous bow struck the fendering and under-pier support columns. As the vessel continued moving forward, the elevated passenger embarkation walkway was first struck by the Carnival Pride’s flared bow. The walkway was then struck by the ship’s starboard-side retractable observation and mooring platform, deployed and rigged to assist in the mooring operation, which caused the walkway to collapse on top of three port department vehicles parked on the pier.

Carnival Pride had a length of 960ft (292.5 metres) a draft 29ft (8.84 metres) Beam/width of 105.6ft (32 metres) 85,920 grt, with 2,449 passengers and 913 crewmembers.