US authorities are concerned that seafarer fatigue caused a tug and barge accident in Washington State
A barge with no cargo on board collided with private docks and homes near Gig Harbor, in Puget Sound on 15 March 2021. This unmanned gravel barge was under tow by tugboat Island Chief at the time of the accident.
The US Coast Guard (USCG)’s initial findings indicate the master of the towing vessel fell asleep while navigating the tug, resulting in the collision. Following the accident, the barge was pulled free by the tug under its own power and returned to Seattle for further investigation and inspection.
There were no injuries and neither the tug nor barge were seriously damaged, however there could be more than US$250,000 of damage to private properties.
“Fortunately, nobody was injured, and the towing vessel did not release fuel or oil into the water,” said USCG Sector Puget Sound chief of prevention Commander Nathan Menefee. “Incidents such as this are very concerning,” he said. “Sector Puget Sound will investigate the incident to determine the cause and whether additional actions are necessary to prevent a similar incident in the future.”
USCG classes this as a serious marine incident and confirmed the vessel operator had initiated drug and alcohol testing for all personnel directly involved in the incident.
Maritime accidents worldwide
Other ships required emergency towage and salvage during the weekend, including two incidents in the Kiel Canal, Germany.
General cargo ship Newton made contact with the embankment in Brunsbuettel shortly after entering the ship canal on 14 March due to steering failure. The ship’s crew managed to bring it off the embankment and berthed it in Brunsbuettel for survey, according to Fleetmon.
In another incident, general cargo ship Wilson Goole hit the northern lock gate in Kiel on 13 March while entering the canal after an engine failure. Two tugs were required to tow it to Lindenau Shipyard for repairs. Wilson Goole had a damaged bow and damaged the northern lock gate. This has delayed shipping through the Kiel Canal until repairs can be carried out.
In Greece, a fleet of tugs have been deployed to assist two damaged bulk carriers following their collision. Kiveli is thought to have struck Afina I with its bow, causing a hull breach and water ingress, off Kythira Island in the Mediterranean Sea, on 13 March.
Kiveli, loaded with fertilisers, was sailing from Casablanca to Varna Bulgaria when it collided with Afina I which was en route with a cargo of iron ore from Novorossiysk, Russia to Bilbao, Spain. According to Fleetmon, there are up to six tugs at the accident site. Both ships were towed to Neapoli Voion anchorage and Lyboussakis Salvage & Towage was able to decouple these bulk carriers on 15 March.
In Iceland, a coast guard ship and a fishing vessel came to the aid of ferry Baldur when it started drifting in rough sea conditions. Both coast guard ship Thor and fishing support vessel Arni Fredriksson towed the ferry to Stykkisholmur with its passengers remaining on board on 11 March.
In Vietnam, cargo ship Bach Dang sank after it capsized on 14 March. Its crew of seven seafarers were rescued when the ship suffered water ingress while on a voyage to Vung Tau with cargo of 1,500 tonnes of ash off Mui Ne.
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