Pilot’s Failure to Compensate for the Current Resulted in Allision

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Damaged port bow of barge MM-46. (Photo by US Coast Guard)

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an investigation report on the Allision of Amy Frances Tow with Natchez–Vidalia Highway 84 Bridge, in January, 2016 on the Lower Mississippi River that caused environmental damage which released of 24,654 gallons of catalytic cracked clarified oil.

Summary

On January 21, 2016, the towing vessel Amy Frances was pushing a flotilla of six barges downbound on the Lower Mississippi River near Natchez, Mississippi. At 1247, the port lead barge in the tow, MM-46, allided with the center pier of the Natchez–Vidalia Highway 84 Bridge. The allision breached a forward cargo tank on the barge, resulting in the release of 24,654 gallons of catalytic cracked clarified oil into the river. The estimated damage exceeded $542,000. There were no injuries in the accident.

Satellite image of the accident site overlaid with a graphical depiction of Amy Frances tow and automatic identification system (AIS) track data. (Background by Google Earth Pro).

Findings:

Investigators also noted that the owner/operator had a navigation program in the vessel operations procedure manual. The program stated that the master should consider― contacting an assist tug to help navigate when conditions may endanger the safety of the tow, its cargo, or the vessel crew. Such conditions may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Strong current;
  2. High winds;
  3. High or low river stages;
  4. Dangerous maneuvering;
  5. Bridge and Lock transits as deemed appropriate by the Master or Pilot.

Natchez–Vidalia Highway 84 Bridge. (Diagram by US Army Corps of Engineers)

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the allision of the Amy Frances tow with the Natchez–Vidalia Highway 84 Bridge was the pilot’s failure to properly compensate for the current in the vicinity of the bridge while proceeding downbound under high-water conditions, and the captain’s failure to recognize the pilot’s inexperience with these conditions and assist the pilot with the maneuver.

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Source: NTSB

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