Houston Pilots Contest NTSB Collision Report

Damage to the Carla Maersk (image courtesy USCG)

By MarEx 2016-06-20 21:51:16

The Houston Pilots are contesting an NTSB report into the collision of the bulker Conti Peridot and the chemical tanker Carla Maersk. The report alleged that lack of communication, inadequate bridge resource management and "lack of predetermined ship movement strategies" led to the loss of control of the Peridot, which crossed the Houston Ship Channel centerline and struck the Carla Maersk amidships in March of last year. 

The Peridot's bow penetrated two port wing ballast tanks and the number four cargo tank on the Carla Maersk. Approximately 90,000 barrels of methyl tert-butyl ether were released into the water, and the fumes reportedly disrupted nearby port operations and affected local residents.

"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," said NTSB chairman Christopher Hart in a June 7 statement. 

However, the pilot on the Peridot on that day, George C. "Chris" Reeser, told the Houston Chronicle that the Peridot was known to be difficult to handle under the normal circumstances and had handled sluggishly during the transit – and that he lost speed just before the collision, even though he had ordered more turns on the propeller. Reeser blames a switch to ultra low sulphur fuel for the engines for the loss of power.

Steve Nerheim, director of the Coast Guard's Houston/Galveston Vessel Traffic Service, told the Chronicle that his office is already investigating a series of lost-power incidents on the ship channel. 

Fourteen collisions occured in the Houston Ship Channel in 2015, twice as many as in 2014 – and for the last three years, an average of 60 vessels per year reported loss of propulsion.