The grounding of a tanker along a river bend in New Orleans was due to poor communication and the pilot’s decision to try to overtake multiple other vessels, according to an investigative report.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found ineffective communication with the other vessels and the pilot’s decision to overtake them in adverse conditions were the main causes of the incident.
No one was injured, but damages totaled more than $1.9 million, including $986,400 in damages to the vessel and $926,100 in damages to fender systems installed around the river bend.
Conditions made maneuvering difficult
The tanker Bow Tribute was transiting a bend in the lower Mississippi River when it attempted to overtake a vessel pushing two barges.
While the pilot of the Bow Tribute communicated with the other vessel, there was additional traffic in the area beyond the barges, including a towboat and a bulk carrier.
A strong current and high-river conditions made it difficult to maneuver, so the Bow Tribute stayed close to the shoreline to avoid the other vessels.
When the pilot lost sight of the vessel pushing the barges, he veered into the fender systems along the shore, grounding the Bow Tribute.
NTSB investigators determined the probable cause was the Bow Tribute’s pilot’s decision to overtake under adverse conditions as well as ineffective communication between him and the pilot of the vessel pushing the barges regarding where the overtaking maneuver would take place.
Assess and communicate
Despite being a maritime incident, this sort of situation can occur in a warehouse, on a loading dock or in a manufacturing facility.
Sometimes backing a tractor-trailer into a busy loading dock or using a forklift to pick up an awkward load requires both good communication and the ability to know when to wait, depending on conditions.
If there’s a lot of activity going on around where that tractor-trailer needs to back in, would it be safer to wait until that activity dies down a bit? If that trailer has to get backed in now, communicating to other nearby drivers and dock workers to look out for the additional traffic would be a good idea.
In the situation with the forklift and the awkward load, is it safe to use the forklift in question to pick up that load? Does the load require using an attachment on the forklift to make picking it up safer? If it’s safe for the forklift to pick up and spotters are necessary to ensure the load’s clearance and stability while it’s being moved, effective communication is most certainly needed between all parties.
Workers need to keep in mind that they should assess a tricky work situation before acting.
And if they do decide to move ahead in making that tricky maneuver – if it’s safe to do so, of course – they should ensure anyone who’s helping or who is working in the area knows exactly what’s going on.