Failing to Monitor the Helmsman’s Response to Rudder Orders Grounds Bulk Carrier


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an investigation report on the Grounding of Bulk Carrier “Sparna” on the Columbia River, with no injuries to casualties but a significant Property damage in March 2016.


On March 20, 2016, the bulk carrier Sparna was transiting outbound on the Columbia River when it departed the navigation channel and struck a rocky shallow area.

No one was injured and no pollution resulted, but the grounding caused damage and flooding to the vessel’s forward tanks. Damage to the Sparna was estimated at more than $500,000 and to a nearby dock about $60,000.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the grounding of bulk carrier Sparna was the failure of the pilot and the bridge team to monitor the helmsman’s response to the pilot’s rudder orders.


Bridge team members should always monitor the helmsman’s response to a rudder order for correct angle and direction of movement. If an error is detected, or if there is confusion about the order given, a correction or clarification should follow. The presence of a pilot on the bridge does not relieve the other bridge team members of their duty to actively monitor the vessel’s position.

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Source: NTSB


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