6 Recent Groundings & Why They Happened- Arnold & Itkin
6 Recent Groundings & Why They Happened
It's been nearly two years since the historic grounding of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal, which halted commercial traffic for a week. This disrupted billions of dollars of trade and grabbed worldwide attention. The accident would later be blamed on trying to navigate the ship with just two pilots on the bridge and no tow vessels fore or aft of the behemoth vessel. It was also exceeding the speed limit at the time of grounding.
While this is an example of a ship accident on a massive scale, groundings happen far more often than they should, and almost without exception, negligence plays a part. Whether it's lax safety measures, providing inadequate training, or failing to maintain a seaworthy vessel, maritime employers and ship companies are often to blame for preventable groundings. Below are just some of the recent examples of such avoidable groundings.
1) Tug Grounding off Corpus Christi
On January 22, 2023, the U.S. Coast Guard was alerted that a tug called the Mark E. Keubler had started to take on water after running aground by the South Texas Gateway refinery. Thankfully no injuries were reported, nor did the Coast Guard notice any pollution in the waters. The tug did sustain a broken mast, however, since it ran aground after a bulk carrier, the Nisalah, struck and damaged the tug.
2) Containership Runs Aground at Italian Port
On January 9, 2023, the MSC Elaine ran aground on a breakwater near the mouth of the harbor at the Port of Gioia Tauro. It took several tugs to help free the grounded containership, which is roughly 370 yards in length. There was still no word of any damage taken on by the grounded ship, but there were no injuries and no pollution. The grounding occurred after MSC Elaine swerved wide while attempting to turn, a failed bit of maneuvering.
3) Bulk Carrier Grounding in the Suez Canal
Also on January 9, 2023, the M/V Glory grounded in the Suez Canal while carrying more than 65,000 tons of corn. There were no reports of damage or injuries, and tugs managed to refloat the vessel that same day, letting operations resume. The bulk carrier reported equipment failure while it was in the single-lane section of the canal, grounding just shy of the canal dividing in two.
While it may be too soon to officially name the cause for the machine failure itself, regular maintenance and accurate inspections can usually prevent such malfunctions.
4) Trawler Stuck in Coral Reef
On December 3, 2022, a Taiwanese vessel, the Yu Feng, ran aground on coral reefs in the Saint-Brandon archipelago of Mauritius. All 28 crew members made it onto a patrol vessel to be ferried back to the harbor. Since the trawler still had 7 tons of fuel oil left, as well as 70 tons of diesel, a committee was created to pump out the fuel oil in an attempt to avoid an environmental disaster. The trawler had set out to go fishing, and the captain was trying to save fuel by taking a shortcut. Instead, this decision led to the vessel grounding near the South Island.
5) Containership Grounding in Chesapeake Bay
March 13, 2022, the Ever Forward ran aground in the shallow, muddy waters of the Chesapeake Bay. It took 45 days of salvage work, some tugboats and barges, and a high tide to get the vessel free. While it couldn't thoroughly disrupt traffic in the bay, the 1,095-foot vessel was carrying nearly 5,000 containers that had their shipment delayed by weeks.
The containership got stuck after missing a turn. The cause of this avoidable grounding: the pilot was busy on his cell phone. Investigations later found that the pilot was just using a Portable Pilot Unit for navigation, and after the ship left port, the pilot spent an hour talking on the phone, sent texts, and was working on an email just before the vessel grounded.
That pilot has since had his license suspended, and the Maryland Board of Pilots has officially banned ship pilots from using their personal phones while in Maryland waters.
6) Towing Vessel Grounds on Mississippi River
The Marquette Warrior grounded near Greenville, Mississippi back in November 21 of 2021, and as it had been pushing 35 barges with dry cargo, it wasn’t the only vessel to run aground that day. Four of those grounded barges sustained damage, and another partially sank. Thankfully no one was injured, but $1.24 million in damages did ensue.
It is only recently, as of November 3, 2022, that the cause of the grounding was officially reported by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB report states that the Marquette Warrior suffered loss of steering that was caused by the failure of an electrical generator set. Even though an engineer noticed the warning signs of impending genset failure, by the time they warned the pilot, the steering had already failed. By the time the engineer fixed the electrical problems, the strong current had already set the vessel on a course that was too late to reverse.
The probable cause of this electrical failure: chafing wires due to improper maintenance. This friction created heat, ruined insulation, and led to the genset failure that killed the steering pump motors. It appears that this wire problem was created during a maintenance inspection a few weeks before the grounding. During the inspection itself, a wiring harness was "improperly positioned".
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Anyone who works on a vessel is owed a reasonably safe workplace. If you or a loved one was hurt in a ship or barge accident, odds are that the accident was preventable. According to maritime law, you could be owed financial compensation for your losses. At Arnold & Itkin, we have fought for the rights of the injured offshore workers and their families for nearly two decades. We know how to get answers, and we know how to get results. We can help you understand your rights and make sure that your rights are fully honored.
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