Ship's turn off dock, not upriver first, cited in Louisiana bridge strike
Professional Mariner|September 2020
Ship's turn off dock, not upriver first, cited in Louisiana bridge strike
Dank Silver loaded clean product at a refinery near Donaldsonville, La., and prepared to sail down the Lower Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. Getting there meant coming off the dock and spinning 180 degrees in the swollen, fast-moving current.
Casey Conley

A pilot from the New OrleansBaton Rouge Steamship Pilots Association (NOBRA) was aboard to guide the 600-foot tanker downriver. He had completed similar jobs from the same refinery dock at least 10 times in his 14-year career, some during high water.

This one didn’t go as planned. The ship became caught in the 5- to 6-knot current and struck a support pier for the Sunshine Bridge about a mile downriver from the refinery. The impact occurred at 1322 on June 16, 2019, with total damage to the ship and bridge exceeding $4.5 million. No pollution or injuries were reported.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggested the NOBRA pilot never gained full control of Dank Silver when starting to head downriver.

“Ultimately, because the pilot decided to turn the ship immediately off the dock rather than heading upriver to turn, he had less distance to gain control of the movement of the ship above the bridge,” the NTSB said in its accident report.

The NOBRA pilots declined to comment on the agency’s findings.

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September 2020