NTSB Cites Limited Visibility, Lack of Communication in Ship Channel Collision

The collision of a 623-foot long bulk carrier with a 600-foot tanker caused about 88,200 gallons of methyl tert-butyl ether to spill into the Houston Ship Channel on March 9, 2015.

The National Transportation Safety Board found that the probable cause of a March 2015 collision of two vessels, the bulk carrier Conti Peridot and tanker Carla Maersk, in the Houston Ship Channel was the inability of the pilot on the bulk carrier to respond appropriately to hydrodynamic forces after meeting another vessel during restricted visibility and his lack of communication with other vessels about this handling difficulty controlling his vessel.

The board also concluded that contributing to the circumstances that produced the collision was inadequate bridge resource management between the master and the pilot on the Conti Peridot.

The collision of the 623-foot long bulk carrier with the 600-foot tanker caused about 88,200 gallons of methyl tert-butyl ether to spill into the channel on March 9, 2015.

"No ships sank and no lives were lost in this collision, but the release of more than 88,000 gallons of MTBE into the waterway, which resulted in the surrounding communities sheltering in place immediately following the release of the hazardous materials, underscores the severity of this accident," NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said. “The Houston Ship Channel also supports one of our nation's busiest seaports, hosting more than 60 ship and 350 barge movements each day. Accidents that disrupt navigation of this vital waterway can have significant impacts, not only to our environment, but also to our economy. Effective bridge resource management can make the difference between a near-miss and a tragic accident, and this is particularly true in the narrow and congested Houston Ship Channel."

The board identified three safety issues in the accident, including insufficient pilot communications, inadequate bridge resource management, and the lack of predetermined ship movement strategies during restricted visibility in the channel, and it issued three new safety recommendations to Bremer Bereederungsgesellschaft mbH & Co., (the operating company of the bulk carrier), the Houston Pilots Association, and the Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee.

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