Improper Lookout Leads To Tanker Collision

Credits: NTSB

NTSB has published its accident report on the collision between the private Yacht Utopia IV and the tanker Tropic Breeze, on December 23, 2021, Northeast Providence Channel, 20 miles northwest of Nassau, Bahamas.

The Incident

Two crews not maintaining proper lookouts led to the collision between a yacht and a tank vessel near Nassau, Bahamas, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday. The collision resulted in the sinking of the tank vessel and nearly $7.9 million in damages.

The motor yacht Utopia IV and tank vessel Tropic Breeze were transiting the Northeast Providence Channel on Dec. 23, 2021, when the two vessels​ collided. The Tropic Breeze’s engine room flooded, and the vessel eventually sank. The vessel’s seven crewmembers abandoned ship and were rescued by a Good Samaritan vessel. Three of the 12 crewmembers on the Utopia IV were injured.

​Before the collision, the captain of the Utopia IV was conning the vessel while the bosun navigated and kept a bridge log. On the Tropic Breeze, the master and an able seafarer were on watch on the bridge.

The captain of the Utopia IV left the bridge shortly before the collision to check on the seven yacht passengers. The bosun, who was not credentialed as a watch officer and was not allowed by regulations to conn the vessel alone, was left performing watchstanding duties by himself and logging navigational data.

At 11:00 p.m. Eastern time, the bow of the Utopia IV, traveling at about 20 knots, struck the transom of the Tropic Breeze from directly astern.

None of the watchstanders on the Utopia IV or Tropic Breeze reported seeing the other vessel on radar. According to the report, it is likely none of the watchstanders had looked at the radar in the 12 minutes before the collision.

During the voyage, the Tropic Breeze’s automatic identification system was inoperative due to a power issue. If the unit was working, Utopia IV’s watchstander could have detected the Tropic Breeze before the collision and the Tropic Breeze’s system would have been able to identify the yacht’s position as it approached from astern.

Probable cause

NTSB investigators concluded that if either vessel had kept a proper lookout, they likely would have detected each other and could have taken action to avoid the collision.

The NTSB determined the probable cause of the collision was the Utopia IV’s wheelhouse crew not maintaining a proper lookout and therefore not identifying the tank vessel they were overtaking. Contributing was the Tropic Breeze’s bridge team also not maintaining a proper lookout.

Lessons learned

A proper lookout by suitably trained crew members is required by the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 and is essential in determining the risk of collision. The effective use of all available resources by a bridge team, including visual scanning, radars, electronic charts, and an automatic identification system, increases collective situational awareness and contributes to a safe navigation watch. Operators and crews should ensure that vessel bridge teams are staffed with certificated/credentialed mariners who are familiar with all bridge navigation equipment and able to independently take immediate action.

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Source: NTSB