Masters Inefficient Handling of Ballasted Vessel Resulted in Water Intake



On February 2, 2016, at 2213 local time, the tanker Nordbay was southbound on the Lower Mississippi River in New Orleans, Louisiana, with a pilot on board when it allided with a dock and water intakes on the left descending bank. Less than an hour later, as the vessel maneuvered through another bend in the river while heading toward an anchorage, it allided with a wharf on the left descending bank. No pollution or injuries were reported. The dock, water intakes, the wharf, and the Nordbay sustained an estimated $6.4 million in total damage.


The allisions together resulted in an estimated $6.4 million in damage, as follows:

  • A DNV-GL survey of the Nordbay found damage to the vessel’s five propeller blades
    (indentations, sharp edges, and notches) and contact-damage to the aft portside shell
    plating above the waterline. Further, inset hull plating and buckling of longitudinal
    webs was found in ballast tank no. 6, the ballast double bottom, and the pump room.
    Damage to the Nordbay was estimated at $400,000.
  • The intakes for the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (Jefferson Parish,
    between about mm 104.1 and 103.8) were damaged but continued to function without
    interruption. A full and detailed damage report was not made available to investigators;
    however, estimated damage to the intakes was $2 million.
  • The River Transport Services (RTS) barge dock and mooring dolphin structures were
    destroyed and determined not to be serviceable. Cost of replacement was estimated
    between $1.5 and $4 million.
  • A full damage assessment for the Mandeville Street Wharf was not available at the time
    of release of this report.

Probable Cause

NTSB determines that the probable cause of the Nordbay’s allisions with water intakes and docks was the pilot and the master not adequately assessing the risks of handling the ballasted vessel during high-river conditions with strong following currents while turning into the wind.

Contributing was the bridge team’s poor situational awareness of the vessel’s position in the waterway. Contributing to the second allision was the master’s distraction from his duties while making a phone call.

Distracted Operations

Postaccident communications and notifications should never interfere with the safe operation of a vessel that is still under way. Control of the vessel and attention to the safe handling of the ship must be maintained at all times until the ship is safely anchored or moored. The presence of a pilot does not exempt the master and bridge team from their duty to safely navigate the ship.

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Source: NTSB


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