Workboat capsizes during Louisiana oil spill exercise, killing two
Professional Mariner|October - November 2020
A workboat that capsized and sank during a boom deployment exercise on the Lower Mississippi River, killing both people on board, turned broadside to the current moments before it rolled over.
Casey Conley

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators could not explain why MSRC 8-1 maneuvered abreast to the fast moving river at mile 18 near Boothville, La., on Jan. 16, 2019. The abrupt turn to starboard placed the 32-foot boat in a perilous position, with the towline still connected to the oil spill response vessel (OSRV) Louisiana Responder.

“The static force that the boom towline exerted on (MSRC 8-1’s) H-bitt, combined with the force of the current broadside to the MSRC 8-1’s underwater hull, attached framework and large rudders, created a heeling moment which rolled the boat to port quickly, overcoming its inherent stability and capsizing it,” the NTSB said in its report.

Katelyn Carlisle, 24, and Ruben Arellano, 48, both of whom worked for the Marine Spill Response Corp. (MSRC), died in the incident despite feverish efforts by the MSRC crew, an Associated Branch Pilots crew and a Coast Guard rescue swimmer to save them. The incident happened at 1038.

MSRC, in a prepared statement, said the NTSB findings align with those from an investigation conducted on the group’s behalf by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS). MSRC has since added buoyancy collars and towing guides on the stern of its 32-foot workboats to reduce the capsizing risk.

“Our commitment to our customers and our stakeholders is to be fully transparent about our learnings from this painful incident to prevent anything like it from occurring in the future,” MSRC spokeswoman Ceren Karaer said. “MSRC does not dispute the overall NTSB findings.”

The nonprofit MSRC is the largest oil spill response organization in the United States. It has vessels and equipment positioned on all three U.S. coasts, the Great Lakes and Hawaii to rapidly respond to pollution and spills. The 210-foot Louisiana Responder, based at Fort Jackson near Venice, La., carried myriad spill response equipment, including MSRC 8-1.

Munson Aluminum Boats built the 640-hp twin-screw MSRC 8-1 in 1992. It had an enclosed cabin with a crawl space accessible beneath the helm chair. The vessel’s gunwales had a series of cleats and small bitts, and a sturdier H-bitt was installed just aft of amidships.

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