NTSB reports complacency and, lack of procedural compliance as causes of accidents

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said that a lack of procedural compliance and complacency had been key factors in several marine accidents where the investigations have concluded this year.

The agency said that the probable cause of the flooding of the towing vessel Alton St Amant on May 17th 2020, in Harvey Canal, New Orleans, Louisiana, was the absence of shipyard pre-inspection and monitoring procedures for water transfer. NTSB said that this resulted in potable water tanks overflowing through their open access hatches during an unmonitored transfer.

NTSB investigators wrote that the crew and shipyard personnel designated to conduct liquid transfers needed to be aware of the status of a vessel’s tanks, including their access hatches and associated piping systems, whether ashore or at sea.

When filling a tank, open access hatches create a risk of unintended flooding. Pre-inspection and monitoring of transfers provided the opportunity to identify and remedy any issues in order to ensure they were safely completed.

The NTSB’s investigation into the September 8th 2019 contact of the Savage Voyager’s tow with the Jamie Whitten Lock & Dam, near Dennis, Mississippi, revealed the tow moving out of position in the lock chamber.

Investigators found that the crew did not monitor and maintain effectively the vessel’s position during its descent. The movement resulted in the aft barge becoming hung on the upper gate miter sill, resulting in hull failure and release of crude oil into the lock.

NTSB investigators wrote that, while locking operations might seem routine, the safety margins were often small. It said that maintaining vessel position and communication with the lock operator were critical practices to ensure safe lockage. The NTSB warned that crews should avoid complacency and should monitor lines with vigilance at all times to prevent “running” in a lock.