NTSB Releases Lessons Learned Report For 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited a lack of organizational oversight as an important contributing factor to about a third of the marine accidents on which the NTSB completed investigations in 2019, including such significant inland incidents as the Stretch Duck 7, Buster Bouchard-B. No. 255, Miss Roslyn, Jeanette, Jonathon King Boyd–Bayou Chevron, Natalie Jean, Emsworth Dam and Ms. Nancy C accidents.

While crew fatigue was cited as a significant factor in several blue-water incidents, it was not cited as a major contributor to any towing vessel incidents that year. 

Those were some of the conclusion of a report released December 10 by the NTSB, collecting the lessons learned from marine accidents in 2019. The report, titled “Safer Seas Digest: Lessons Learned from Marine Casualty Investigations,” was prepared by the NTSB’s Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications. 

The NTSB is charged by law with investigating every civil aviation accident, as well as “significant” accidents in the four other transport modes: highways, pipelines, marine and railroads. 

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The Coast Guard conducts preliminary investigations of all marine accidents and notifies the NTSB if an accident qualifies as a major marine casualty, which is defined as resulting in at least one of the following: 

• The loss of six or more lives. 

• The loss of a mechanically propelled vessel of 100 or more gross tons. 

• Property damage initially estimated at $500,000 or more. 

• Serious threat (as determined by the Coast Guard commandant and concurred with by the NTSB chairman) to life, property or the environment from hazardous materials.

It typically takes up to a year for the results of an NTSB investigation to be released.

The investigations completed in 2019 involving inland towboats included:

• the capsizing and sinking of barge Dredge200 and loss of workboat R.E. Pierson 2 pushed by the tugboat Big Jake; 

• the capsizing of the towing vessel Miss Roslyn; 

• the capsizing and sinking of the towing vessel Natalie Jean;

• a multiple barge breakaway and contact with Emsworth Dam;

• the contact of a tow pushed by the Andrew Cargill McMillan with a grain conveyor;

• the contact of the towing vessel Steve Richoux with the Mardi Gras World pier;

• an engineroom fire aboard the towing vessel Jacob Kyle Rusthoven; 

• a pipeline breach and subsequent devastating fire aboard the cutter suction dredge Jonathon King Boyd and the towboat Bayou Chevron; 

• an engineroom fire aboard the towing vessel Leland Speakes; and 

• the flooding and sinking of the towing vessel Miss Nancy C.

Another notable occurrence that year was the sinking of the amphibious passenger vessel Stretch Duck 7 on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo. The publicity surrounding that incident, with its 17 fatalities including nine members of the same family, has virtually ended the use of these vessels for passenger cruising.

Other incidents from 2019 involved fishing boats, oil rig support vessels, commercial tankers and freighters, articulated tug-barges and even a U.S. Navy destroyer.