Master’s Failure to Plan and Execute a Safe Docking Causes Allision of Vessel

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What happened?

About 1400 Alaska daylight time on June 3, 2016, the cruise ship Celebrity Infinity allided with its arrival berth in Ketchikan, Alaska. No one was injured and no pollution occurred, but the ship and the berth sustained about $1.15 million in damage.

Weather warnings

The cruise ship was on a one-week voyage and had departed Juneau, Alaska the evening before the accident. Prior to arrival in Ketchikan, weather information had warned of strong gale-force wind conditions on the day of the accident, and the bridge team was aware of the situation.

No Tugboats Arranged

The master stated that he spoke to the fleet captain the morning of the accident about the expected high winds in Ketchikan and that the fleet captain told him it was his decision whether to dock or not. The master did not try to arrange for a tugboat to assist the ship with docking and stated he had never heard of tugboats being available in Ketchikan (they were).

Steady Wind Conditions led to Ignorance

An Alaska pilot was also on the bridge, being compulsory for navigation in Alaskan waters. However, Celebrity Cruises SMS stated that the master or staff captain must perform dockings. At 1302, the pilot radioed a pilot who was departing the berth where the Celebrity Infinity was to berth at and learned the wind was a steady 25 knots with gusts to 35 knots. Neither the master nor the onboard Alaska pilot attended a pre-arrival briefing on the ship’s navigation bridge at 1326, and the four people who did attend―staff captain (who had navigational control during the docking), first officer, safety officer, and third officer―were not recorded on the ship’s VDR as discussing the weather conditions.

Master Provided Assurance

The pilot told investigators that he did talk to the master about the expected winds and that the master assured him they could dock in the prevailing conditions, just that they would come in a bit faster and wider than normal due to the wind. The pilot also said that he told the master that tugboats were available, but the master said, “unless the winds were very strong, 30–40 [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. Further, the staff captain told investigators that he discussed with the master the expected wind for docking; however, it is unclear if the two of them discussed the docking with the pilot, as nothing was heard on the VDR.

The Collision

When the vessel was about 4 tenths of a mile from the dock, the conn changed from the pilot to the staff captain. The master told investigators that, when approaching the dock, the Celebrity Infinity was drifting considerably, and he ordered the starboard anchor dropped at 1353. Doing so slowed the motion of the ship’s bow toward the dock, but the stern then moved more rapidly toward the dock and eventually allided with it.

The impact opened a 9-inch-diameter hole on the vessel’s port side, about 12 feet above the waterline, and deflected several structural members. The berth sustained extensive damage to catwalks and structural members. Recorded wind speeds from the vessel’s VDR showed gusts around 40 knots.

Probable Cause: Master’s Ignorance

  1. Senior bridge and engineering personnel told investigators there were no problems with the nautical, bridge, or propulsion equipment at the time of the accident, and the bridge logbook indicated that all regulatory and company required equipment was “tested and found in good working order.”
  2. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the Celebrity Infinity’s allision with the dock was the master’s failure to plan, monitor, and execute a safe docking evolution.

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Source: NTSB

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