NTSB Marine Accident Briefs: James H. Hunter, Savage Ingenuity, Gracie Claire

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released Marine Accident Briefs stating its findings on several marine incidents involving towboats from the summer of 2017.

James H Hunter

​At about 10:50 p.m. on June 6, 2017, the towing vessel James H Hunter was pushing three gravel and sand barges upstream in the Cumberland River through the city of Nashville, Tenn., when two barges broke from the tow, hit the bank and then allided with a floating dock underneath a pedestrian bridge, a fireboat moored at the dock, and a bridge pier.

The fireboat broke free of its moorings as the barges pushed the dock downriver. There were no injuries or reports of pollution. The fireboat sustained damage in the form of dents and scrapes to its hull, and the dock had damage estimated to be about $300,000. Damage to the barges was reported to be superficial.

​The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the allision of the James H. Hunter tow with the dock and fire boat was the practice of using single barge couplings in high-water conditions, which resulted in the parting of a steering coupling after rudder input to counteract the strong current.

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Savage Ingenuity

​At about 12:30 midnight on September 5, 2017, the crew of the towing vessel Savage Ingenuity was maneuvering two empty tank barges in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Mile 245 in Sulphur, La., with the assistance of another vessel.

While the tow’s starboard side was almost perpendicular to the current, the vessel heeled to starboard and flooded through an open engineroom door. The towboat partially sank, its bow being held above the water by the head line connected to the barges. All five crewmembers escaped to the barges without reported injury. Approximately 11,800 gallons of diesel oil were released into the waterway, most of which was not recovered. Damage to the Savage Ingenuity was estimated at $1,350,000.

​The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the flooding and sinking of the Savage Ingenuity was the lack of company procedures requiring the closure of weather deck doors at all times while the vessel was under way. The open doors resulted in rapid down-flooding into the engineroom when the vessel heeled while perpendicular to the strong current with the head of its tow pushed into a river bank.

Gracie Claire

​On August 23, 2017, at 7:56 a.m., the towing vessel Gracie Claire was moored in Tiger Pass near Mile 10 on the Lower Mississippi River in Venice, La. While taking on fuel and water, the towboat began to slowly list to starboard. After the wake of a passing crew boat washed onto the Gracie Claire’s stern, the list increased. In a short period of time, water entered an open door to the engineroom and flooded the space.

The towboat sank partially, its bow being held above the water by the lines connected to the dock. All three crewmembers escaped to the dock without injury. Approximately 1,100 gallons of diesel fuel were discharged into the waterway. Damage to the Gracie Claire was estimated at $565,000.

​The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the capsizing and sinking of the Gracie Claire was the towing vessel’s decreased stability and freeboard due to undetected flooding through a hull leak in the rudder compartment, which made the vessel susceptible to the adverse effects of boarding water from the wake of a passing vessel.