Mooring Equipment Failure in Storm Grounds Vessel


Spirit of Kona lying on its port side on the rocks near Kukailimoku Point. (Photo by Coast Guard)

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an investigation report on the grounding and subsequent breakup of the small passenger vessel “Spirit of Kona”, in July 2016, in Hawaii, that caused environmental damage with release of 275 gallons of diesel and lubricating oil into the water.


About 0220 on July 24, 2016, in tropical storm conditions, the 70-foot-long small passenger vessel Spirit of Kona broke loose from its mooring in Kailua Bay on the island of Hawaii. About 10 minutes later, after drifting across the bay, the vessel grounded on lava rocks. Under continuous wave action, the Spirit of Kona broke apart and subsequently sank. No one was on board at the time.

The vessel’s fuel and lube oil tanks ruptured and about 275 gallons of oil spilled into the sea and onto the rocks. The value of the Spirit of Kona was an estimated $1.1 million.

Sketches of the Spirit of Kona’s mooring arrangement (not to scale) drawn by the vice president of Blue Sea Cruises.

Once the weather conditions improved, salvage company Cates International of Honolulu, Hawaii, began removing the wreckage and cleaning up the oil spill and debris. The wreckage, which was refloated using float bags, was going to be towed to a disposal site offshore. While on the way to that site, however, the salvage company reported a problem with one of the float bags and the wreckage sank; it still remains at that location.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the grounding and subsequent breakup of the Spirit of Kona was the failure of the vessel’s mooring equipment in tropical storm conditions. Contributing to the Spirit of Kona breaking free from its mooring was the failure of Blue Sea Cruises to take additional precautions to secure the vessel in advance of an oncoming tropical storm.

Wreckage of the Spirit of Kona. (Photo by Coast Guard)

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Source: NTSB


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