18 Deficiencies that Lead to Collision and Sinking of Towing Vessel


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an investigation report, concerning the collision and subsequent sinking of a towing vessel, in Hudson River, on March 2016.

The incident

About 0500 on Saturday, March 12, 2016, the uninspected towing vessel “Specialist”, transiting southbound on the Hudson River while towing a tower crane barge with two other tugboats, struck a construction barge that was spudded down alongside a concrete pier at the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction site.1 The Specialist subsequently sank, resulting in three crew fatalities. The Specialist was raised to the surface on March 24, 2016, and declared a constructive total loss.

Probable Cause

NTSB determines that the probable cause of the collision and sinking of the Specialist was inadequate manning, resulting in fatigued crewmembers navigating three tugboats with obstructed visibility due to the size of the crane on the barge they were towing and the location of the tugboats alongside the barge.

The most recent Coast Guard examination of the Specialist, which took place about 2 years before the accident (April 2, 2014; Uninspected Towing Vessel Examination), noted 18 deficiencies, including:

  • Vessel’s master must have a towing license with endorsement for appropriate tonnage,
  • Vessel must have navigation publications aboard,
  • Vessel must have VTS [Coast Guard vessel traffic service] Rules aboard,
  • Stern light, mast headlight, and push light were not working (this was corrected during the examination),
  • Type 1 PFDs [personal flotation devices] with light were not available for each person,
  • General alarm light in the engine room did not work,
  • Vessel was required to have an approved fire detection system certified by professional engineer, and
  • Liferaft must be serviced, properly stowed, and have a valid hydrostatic release.

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Source: NTSB