NTSB Determines High-Risk Maneuver Caused 2007 Baton Rouge Marine Accident

Washington, DC (October 30th 2008): The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that the probable cause of the M/V Kition's collision with the Interstate Highway 10 bridge in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was the pilot's attempt to execute the high-risk maneuver of turning at the dock immediately above the bridge rather than moving the vessel downriver through the bridge before turning, or taking it well upriver, then turning.

"This accident involving a large ship carrying a load of carbon black (a petroleum product) striking a highway bridge could have been catastrophic," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker. "It is imperative that we make sure that an accident like this does not happen again."

On February 10, 2007, the Kition, a Bahamas-registered tankship, was scheduled to depart Port Allen, Louisiana, on the Mississippi River. A state-licensed pilot, as required by Louisiana law, and three tug boats were on-hand to move the nearly 800-foot-long vessel away from its berth at the Apex Oil terminal and turn the vessel around to head downriver. The state pilot directed the movements of the Kition and issued all orders to the tugs. During the maneuver to turn the vessel down river from the dock, its starboard bow struck the bridge pier, knocking out a section of concrete and severely damaging the bridge fenders. There were no injuries or pollution and the accident did not affect the safety of the bridge. However, the vessel did sustain damage to its hull.

"Proper training would have prevented this accident." Rosenker said.

As a result of this accident, the Safety Board made the following recommendations:

To the Board of New Orleans-Baton Rouge Steamship Pilot Examiners for the Mississippi River:

1. Verify that the pilots assigned to challenging locations such as the Apex dock have received adequate training in docking and undocking large vessels at such locations.

To the United States Coast Guard:

2. Retrain your investigating officers in the policy set forth in ALDIST 174/97 regarding postaccident drug testing by Coast Guard personnel.

3. Verify whether the regulations for alcohol testing after serious marine incidents are being followed, and if not, identify corrective measures.

The Board's report can be found on its website at the following link: http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2008/MAR0803.pdf

NTSB Reference: SB-08-50

Media Contact: Terry N. Williams / (202) 314-6100 / williat@ntsb.gov.