NEW ORLEANS — The bridge crew’s lack of attention to a cargo ship’s position let it drag anchor and hit another anchored ship and a dock last year, doing millions of dollars in damage, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.
“Monitoring a ship at anchor … requires a continuous state of vigilance and the use of all available means to determine whether a vessel is dragging or not,” said the report released Thursday.
Nobody was injured when the 453-foot-long (138 meter) Nomadic Milde hit the 590-foot (180-meter) bulk carrier Atlantic Venus, forming a T across the longer ship’s bow, and then hit the Cornerstone Chemical Co. dock, the board said.
The report said damages were estimated at $16.9 million — $10.9 million to the dock, $5.5 million to $6 million to the Nomadic Milde and more than $410,000 to the Atlantic Venus.
However, Cornerstone’s estimate puts dock repairs at $52.3 million, with lost business, prejudgment interest and court costs bringing the total to $66.9 million. Those figures are in a lawsuit against both ships, the towing company that was working to separate the two when the cargo ship hit the dock and a third ship that passed nearby, raising a wake.
Attorneys for both Cornerstone, based in Bridge City, Louisiana, and for owners and managers of the cargo ship, which say its repairs cost $1.5 million and are trying to limit its liability to $6.2 million, declined to comment because litigation is pending.
A bench trial before U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon is currently scheduled Sept. 12, 2022.
The Mississippi River was high when the accident occurred about 5 p.m. on May 8, 2020, at the Kenner anchorage near New Orleans, where the Nomadic Milde was just upriver of the other ship.
It had taken on a cargo of lead concentrate and its crew was to finish repairing a cargo hatch the next morning, the NTSB said. The cargo was to be delivered to Port Pirie, Australia, according to court papers filed for owner New Nomadic Short Sea Shipping AS of Bergen, Norway, and operator Intership Navigation Co. Ltd, of Cyprus.
The Nomadic Milde probably first moved while the pilot who had directed the crew to its berth was leaving, and then did so again before the crash, according to NTSB.
Had the pilot noticed the motion, he might have stayed on board, it said.
The report said that apparently neither watch officer checked the cargo ship’s position frequently, or by any means other than an electronic monitoring system.
That alarm was set to sound if the Nomadic Milde was more than 590 feet (180 meters) from a center point, even though it had started out about 490 feet (149 meters) from the Atlantic Venus, the report noted.
“The anchor watch alarm radius setting of 590 feet was too large to provide for a timely alarm of the ship dragging,” it said.
There would have been time to avoid the crashes if the bridge team had noticed other evidence that their ship was drifting, the report said.
“The ship’s radars would have provided information for the crew to determine or crosscheck if the range to a vessel or object had decreased, or if the ship had moved while at anchor,” NTSB wrote.
When watches changed just after 4 p.m., the incoming chief officer noticed that the Nomadic Milde was not in the middle of the “anchor watch circle” but didn’t check other information, the report said.
At 4:13 p.m., the officer on watch aboard the Atlantic Venus called, asking the Nomadic Milde’s officers to monitor their holding position.
“The chief officer did not take any follow-up action to address the concern, only communicating that their engines were ready on short notice,” the report said.
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