Lack of Communication Leads To Fatal Collision

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The National Transportation Safety Board issued its final report on the fatal collision of the tanker Bow Fortune and commercial fishing vessel Pappy’s Pride near Galveston, Texas.

The incident

On January 14, the Master of Bow Fortune, navigated the vessel from the anchorage, with the vessel’s fog signal energized, to make a 1500 rendezvous with the pilot boat. Around the same time, the pilot was en route for the rendezvous on the pilot boat Galveston; the pilot stated the channel’s visibility was clear from the harbor through the Bolivar Roads Anchorage Areas.

The Pappy’s Pride, got under way at 1325 from Pier 75 in the Port of Galveston to shrimp along the gulf coast to the north. Rose Point automatic identification system (AIS) video showed the Pappy’s Pride increasing speed to 8.5 knots speed over ground (SOG), turning to starboard, and crossing the Texas City and Houston Ship channels. The vessel headed outbound to the east and north of the inbound barge lane of the ship channel.

The pilot on the outbound tanker Chemical Atlantik stated that he could visually see the Pappy’s Pride before Buoys 11 and 12, but that after passing Buoy 12, the Chemical Atlantik entered fog and no longer had visual contact with the Pappy’s Pride or any other vessel.

The Chemical Atlantik commenced sounding fog signals. Its pilot noted that he “saw” the Pappy’s Pride by AIS and radar as it transited in the northern half of the anchorage and did not appear to alter course toward the main channel.

At 1532, the Bow Fortune pilot made a passing arrangement with the pilot on the Chemical Atlantik. The Bow Fortune pilot told investigators that, because the Chemical Atlantik had finished its turn across the channel’s centerline, he intended to finish the Bow Fortune’s turn on the outer edge of the Outer Bar Channel and give the channel to the Chemical Atlantik.

The pilot stated he was at full ahead as the Bow Fortune approached the Galveston Entrance between the seaward ends of the jetty walls to counteract the effect of the combined 0.7-knot ebb current setting to the northwest with an ocean current, which the pilot estimated as a 1.5-knot cross current setting to the north.

About the same time, the Pappy’s Pride heading vector had the fishing vessel steering a course towards Buoys 7 and 8. At 1534, the Pappy’s Pride was about 0.14 miles (246 yards) north of the channel. The Bow Fortune pilot stated that he noticed the Pappy’s Pride on his PPU at that point, “showing he was coming towards the channel.”

At 1535, the Bow Fortune pilot hailed the Pappy’s Pride twice. Although the Pappy’s Pride did not respond, electronic data shows that, shortly after the first attempted hail, the fishing vessel came 19° to port.

The new heading, just north and slightly parallel to the outskirts of the channel boundary, put the Pappy’s Pride predicted vector as continuing to enter the channel at a very shallow angle and crossing ahead of the inbound Bow Fortune. About 1536, the Bow Fortune pilot sounded five short blasts, and the electronic data shows the Pappy’s Pride maintained its heading.

At 1537:32, the vessels collided just outside the Outer Bar Channel across from Buoy 7A, and the Pappy’s Pride capsized. At 1538, the Bow Fortune pilot hailed VTS, reported the collision and position, and issued a mayday for assistance.

Probable cause

Investigators determined the probable cause of the collision was the captain of the Pappy’s Pride’s outbound course toward the ship channel, which created a close quarters situation in restricted visibility. Contributing to the collision was the lack of communication from the captain of the Pappy’s Pride.

Early communication can be an effective measure in averting close quarters situations. The use of VHF radio can help to dispel assumptions and provide operators with the information needed to better assess each vessel’s intentions,” the report said.

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Source: NTSB

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