The National Transportation Safety Board has released its report on the March 12, 2022 incident involving the drill ship VALARIS DS-16. At the time, the drill ship was laid up at a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The drill ship broke free from the dock, drifted and eventually collided with the bulk cargo vessel Akti. The bulk cargo ship was moored at a Chevron Refinery dock at the time. The drill ship was tied off to a number of bollards on the dock prior to breaking free.
The NTSB’s report illustrates the role that bollards played in causing this incident:
During elevated sustained winds, bollard 6, which secured the VALARIS DS-16’s four bow lines and a semisubmersible rig’s two stern lines, broke free at its base, and was pulled off the pier into the water. After the casualty, ultrasonic thickness tests performed on the remaining bollards in the area where the VALARIS DS-16 was moored indicated that there was deteriorated steel at the lower portion of several bollards. The broken top of bollard 6 was not recovered from the channel and was not analyzed, but a postcasualty measurement of the remaining 18-inch-diameter base of the bollard showed that the steel wall thickness was less than 0.25 inches on the side farthest from the the edge of the pier—an apparent reduction in thickness of about 0.5 inches (original bollard design drawings showed a wall thickness of 0.75 inches). Additionally, several bollards showed signs of external corrosion and wastage: steel wires and chains were looped around the bases of bollards from which pier fenders hung, causing chafing and wear.
The probable case was found to be:
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the breakaway of the VALARIS DS-16 from the ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore Shipyard dock and the subsequent collision with the cargo vessel Akti was the failure of one of the shipyard’s mooring bollards—which had been modified to increase its height to accommodate more lines—used to secure the VALARIS DS-16’s bow mooring lines to a pier, during a cold front with strong winds.
The report also documents lessons from the incident:
As a result of continuing increases in vessel size and sail area, bollards that were previously sufficient may not have adequate capacity to moor larger vessels. There are currently no US Coast Guard or Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulatory requirements for facilities to inspect and verify loading capacities of bollards at shoreside facilities. Bollards and associated pierside mooring equipment are vital equipment that must be capable of withstanding the tremendous forces that large vessels exert on them. Due to their exposure to seawater, bollards and associated pierside mooring equipment are also at high risk for corrosion, which can significantly affect service life. The Coast Guard has recommended that facility owners and operators develop routine inspection programs for bollards and other mooring equipment.
OSHA has previously issued a marine safety alert regarding the importance of safety bollards:
Recently, there have been a number of shore side marine bollard failures whereby moored vessels were cast adrift. In some cases this resulted in damage to the involved vessel as well as other nearby vessels and shore side structures. Thankfully, there were no related injuries or deaths. Neither the Coast Guard nor the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has regulatory oversight over these items.
In several cases the underlying deficient material condition of the bollards was unknown until the failures occurred. Causes include the rotting of organic bollards made of marine pilings, the undetected fracture of bollard castings due to manufacturer defects, damage from previous overloads, or the degradation of bollard foundations and fasteners. Typically, the failures are associated with abnormal dynamic loads transferred to the bollard from a vessel.
Shipyards must have an inspection and maintenance program in place for their bollards. Industry standards require it, as does common sense.
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