Liftboat Master "Felt Good" about Location Before Overturn


Published Nov 2, 2019 10:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a Marine Accident Brief about an accident occurring on November 18, 2018, involving the liftboat Ram XVIII which overturned in the Gulf of Mexico about 15 miles south-southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana. 

The incident occurred at 0200 local time in West Delta block 68, located about 15 miles south-southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana. Five crewmembers and 10 offshore workers abandoned the vessel and were rescued. Three people suffered minor injuries during the evacuation. An estimated 1,000 gallons of hydraulic oil were released. The vessel was declared a constructive total loss at an estimated $1,140,000.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the overturning was the industry practice of not regularly providing liftboat operators with adequate information about the seafloor composition, which resulted in the instability of the port leg due to unidentified conditions/hazards in seabed composition near the port leg landing site.

The mate, master, and Aries Marine Operations Manager all described the West Delta area of the Gulf of Mexico as a “bad area” to work due to the soft bottom. Previously in his career, the master had refused to work at locations due to previous landing impressions (can holes), losing his job at least once due to this. He told investigators that he had placed legs in a can hole only two other times in his 34-year career. 

Despite his experience, and although he had never been to this platform before, he “felt good” about the location. He also stated the can hole nearest the port leg was far away, and “…there’s no way that leg slid into the can.” The weather was “slick calm” with no wind, and the elevated vessel was not rocking or swaying before the accident.

Aries Marine and Fugro management told investigators that can holes can fill in after 20 years or so, depending on soil and proximity to rivers. Fugro maintained this data on behalf of the block lease holder. Fugro proposed a landing location and asked for Aries’ input, but the final location was at the master’s discretion.

According to the master, jack-up MODUs, which are much larger than liftboats, get core sample and soil data with predicted penetration before they preload, which allows them to calculate
the depth at which the legs should penetrate the seabed. According to Fugro, this information is sometimes required by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Safety and/or insurance contracts but was unavailable to the Ram XVIII as a liftboat.

The report is available here.