On March 12, 2016, the uninspected towing vessel “Specialist”, transiting southbound on the Hudson River while towing a tower crane barge with two other tugboats, struck a construction barge that was spudded down alongside a concrete pier at the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction site. The Specialist subsequently sank, resulting in three crew fatalities. The Specialist was raised to the surface on March 24, 2016, and declared a constructive total loss.
NTSB determines that the probable cause of the collision and sinking of the Specialist was inadequate manning, resulting in fatigued crewmembers navigating three tugboats with obstructed visibility due to the size of the crane on the barge they were towing and the location of the tugboats alongside the barge.
The most recent Coast Guard examination of the Specialist, which took place about 2 years before the accident (April 2, 2014; Uninspected Towing Vessel Examination), noted 18 deficiencies, including:
- Vessel’s master must have a towing license with endorsement for appropriate tonnage,
- Vessel must have navigation publications aboard,
- Vessel must have VTS [Coast Guard vessel traffic service] Rules aboard,
- Stern light, mast headlight, and push light were not working (this was corrected during the examination),
- Type 1 PFDs [personal flotation devices] with light were not available for each person,
- General alarm light in the engine room did not work,
- Vessel was required to have an approved fire detection system certified by professional engineer, and
- Liferaft must be serviced, properly stowed, and have a valid hydrostatic release.
- The EPIRB [emergency position-indicating radio beacon] did not have valid hydrostatic
release, a valid battery, and NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]
- Alcohol test kits were expired,
- Vessel did not have a required FCC [Federal Communications Commission] station log,
- The bilge overboard discharge valve was not secured,
- Vessel did not have required logs of pre-departure and arrival tests and inspections,
- Vessel did not have a required record of initial testing/retesting tow wire,
- Firefighting training had not been recorded,
- Safety orientations had not been conducted and recorded,
- Vessel’s security officer must be familiar with the security plan and keep records, and
- Searchlights must be operable.
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