The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its investigative report on the December 15, 2019 incident when the liquid petroleum gas carrier Levant struck a wharf’s mooring dolphin. The mooring dolphin was destroyed, and the vessel’s forward ballast tank was flooded as a result of the impact. The total damage caused by the incident is in excess of $8.25 million.
The NTSB’s report explains:
On December 14, after loading for about 3 days, the master of the Levant halted loading operations due to the increase in the vessel’s draft, which resulted in a decrease in the under-keel clearance. With the ebbing tide, he was concerned about maintaining a safe under-keel clearance and decided it was necessary to take the ship off the wharf to deeper water to anchor, and then return to the wharf when the tide was high enough to complete loading operations. For the shift to the anchorage, a Puget Sound state-licensed pilot was required per Washington State regulations.
The next morning when the vessel attempted to return to finish loading operations, the vessel struck the mooring dolphin, causing significant damage
The estimated cost to repair the damage to the vessel was $1.5 million. The south mooring dolphin and adjoining catwalk at the Petrogas Wharf were completely destroyed; the estimated replacement cost was $6.75 million.
The report faulted the failure of the pilot and the vessel’s master to exchange information prior to conducting the operation:
There was not an effective exchange of information between the pilot and bridge team prior to getting under way regarding the pilot’s plan to bring the Levant to the Petrogas Wharf. The master and pilot conducted a master/pilot exchange before the Levant got under way from the Petrogas Wharf to the anchorage on the evening of December 14; however, that exchange was for an undocking maneuver, and the accident occurred during a docking evolution. Because the pilot remained with the vessel, the master determined the exchange to be adequate for the short shift back to the wharf the next morning.
The NTSB identified the probable cause of the incident as:
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the contact of the liquid petroleum gas carrier Levant with a mooring dolphin at the Petrogas Ferndale Wharf was the pilot’s approach with excessive speed and at too steep an angle, resulting from the pilot’s and bridge team’s poor bridge resource management.
It is important any time operations are occurring that the pilot and the bridge team adequately communicate regarding the maneuvering of the vessel and fully understand the tasks to be performed. Communications must be open, involve discussion of the intended maneuvers, and should continue throughout the evolution in order to present incidents such as this one. Clear orders and commands should be acknowledged and carried out promptly. The master/pilot exchange is a critical opportunity for a pilot and bridge team to establish and share necessary information
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