Failure of planning probably led to Celebrity Infinity crash, says NTSB

The US National Transportation Safety Board has determined that the probable cause of the allision between cruise ship Celebrity Infinity (IMO 9189421) and a dock on June 3rd 2016 was a failure by the Master to plan, monitor and execute a safe docking procedure.

Celebrity Infinity allided with berth 3 in Ketchikan, Alaska, causing a breach nine inches in diameter on the forward port side, about 12ft above the waterline. The berth suffered extensive damage to the catwalks and pilings, although no-one was injured and there was no subsequent pollution. The cost of repairs was about $1.15m.

On the day of the incident about an hour before the incident the pilot on Celebrity Infinity radioed the pilot on a vessel that was leaving berth 3 and learned the wind was a steady 25 knots with gusts to 35 knots. According to the logbook a company-required pre-arrival brief was conducted by the bridge team about 20 minutes later. The Master told NTSB investigators that all the deck officers and sailors who participated in the docking attended this meeting. He also stated that pilots normally participated in the brief, but that the assigned pilot did not participate this time, because the Celebrity Infinity was in restricted waters and the pilot had to concentrate on conning the vessel. The pilot told NTSB investigators that he was not part of the pre-arrival brief but that he did talk to the master about the expected winds at docking. He said the master assured him they could dock within the parameters being reported to them.

The pilot stated the master told him they would come in a bit faster and wider than normal due to the wind. The pilot also stated he told the master that tugboats were available. The master said that, unless the winds were very strong, 30 to 40 knots, they would have no problem holding the ship and that he (the master) had docked the vessel in wind gusts up to 50 knots.

When the vessel was about four tenths of a mile from the dock, the conn changed from the pilot to the staff captain. This change was not heard on the vessel’s voyage data recorder (VDR). The port-side-to docking manoeuvre went according to plan as the vessel approached berth 3.

The Master stated he noticed the ship “drifting a lot” and that he then advised the forward mooring station to drop the starboard anchor. He said that the wind suddenly increased from 23 to 40 knots. Parametric data downloaded from the vessel’s VDR showed a maximum one-second wind speed of 43.8 knots about the time the anchor was let go.

The Master told investigators he ordered the starboard anchor to be dropped when the vessel was about 450 metres from the dock, because he felt that the bow of the vessel was rapidly approaching the dock and the bow thrusters were unable to slow the motion of the bow.

According to the VDR and CCTV recordings, the anchor was dropped at 13:53. Both the master and the staff captain told investigators that the master took over the conn at this point; however, the ship’s logbook does not reflect a change of conn from the staff captain to the master and nothing was heard on the VDR to indicate the master had the conn. Further, CCTV footage showed the master, pilot, and staff captain operating the bow thrusters and the master and the staff captain operating the pods after the anchor had been dropped.

Investigators noted from a CCTV recording that, after the starboard anchor was dropped, the stern approached the dock more rapidly. The master said he discussed the docking evolution with the pilot, and the staff captain said he discussed the expected wind for docking with the master; however, it is unclear if the three of them discussed the docking evolution together, as nothing was heard on the VDR.

The Master told investigators that the weather conditions were discussed at the pre-arrival brief; however, investigators reviewed the VDR and CCTV and noted that the master and the pilot did not participate in the brief.

The CCTV showed the master and the pilot standing away from the area where the pre-arrival brief was held, looking forward, and conning the vessel. Further, the VDR did not record the four people who did attend the pre-arrival brief―staff captain, first officer, safety officer and third officer―discussing the weather conditions.

Investigators said that they were left with the impression that a clear mental model of the docking evolution was not shared by the entire bridge team. 2001-built, Malta-flagged, 90,940 gt Celebrity Infinity is owned by Infinity Inc care of Celebrity Cruises Inc of Miami, Florida, USA. It is entered with UK P&I Club (Americas G7 group) on behalf of Celebrity Cruises Inc.