Houston Ship Channel Pilot Blamed in 2015 Collision

June 13, 2016

Federal safety experts say errors by a Houston Ship Channel pilot likely caused the 2015 collision between two 600-foot vessels that led to a chemical spill.

The Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday that the National Transportation Safety Board has urged Houston officials to improve channel safety – especially during heavy fog.

The report called on Houston pilots to emphasize better bridge management and more timely communication.

The NTSB concluded that the pilot’s failure to communicate as he guided the Conti Peridot through thickening fog contributed to the collision with an outbound chemical tanker, the Carla Maersk. The report also says that the pilot failed to adequately control he vessel.

The March 9, 2015, accident caused about 88,000 gallons of a flammable chemical to spill. Nobody was hurt.

“Houston’s port is one of the busiest in the world. Vessels of all shapes and sizes must successfully share the waters of the Houston Ship Channel, “NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said.

The report also specifically calls on the port’s Lone Star Safety Committee, a Houston-based group that includes pilots, government officials and industry representatives, to study how to improve safety in heavy fog or other potentially hazardous weather conditions. The NTSB recommended measures, including considering increased vessel separation, one-way traffic and/or anchoring

A spokesman for the Houston Pilots Association welcomed the recommendations and said the report will be reviewed.

Port of Houston commissioners, who also act as the Board of Pilot Commissioners, voted to defer action in regards to the collision until the NTSB released its findings.

Port spokesman Lisa Ashley, said Wednesday that the pilot board will meet to consider the full NTSB report whenever it becomes available.

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