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SUMMARIES OF MAJOR  ACCIDENT REPORTS
(In event order)

THE KULLUK INCIDENT
December 2012
THE COSTA CONCORDIA
January 2012
THE TRINITY II
September 2011
THE DEEPWATER HORIZON
April 2010
THE BOURBON DOLPHIN
April 2007
THE STEVNS POWER
October 2003
THE OCEAN RANGER
February 1982
THE OCEAN EXPRESS
April 1976

PICTURE OF THE DAY
PIC OF THE DAY ARCHIVES
2007 - 77 Photographs
2008 - 101 Photographs
2009 - 124 Photographs
2010 - 118 Photographs
2011 - 100 Photographs
2012 - 97 Photographs

 

  

         

Go to 'Publications' to buy any of these books.

DON'T FORGET YOU CAN PURCHASE "THE HISTORY OF THE SUPPLY SHIP", "SUPPLY SHIP OPERATIONS" and "RIGMOVES" HERE FOR £52.50 TOGETHER

AN UNUSUAL INVESTIGATION ON THE BRITISH COLUMBIA COAST
OR
 WHY WE HAVE QUALIFIED CREWS

I had investigated marine accidents ranging from cruise ship fires to swamped kayaks on Canada’s west coast, but the most bizarre one of all looked straight forward at first.

A small crew boat, identified by its call sign, had sunk and two men were rescued.  Then I was informed that the sunken vessel was not a crew boat but a tug which was using the radio from a laid up crew boat. The situation was to become even more peculiar.

I traced the boat’s skipper, John*, through his mother, to a small coastal town that could only be reached by a one hour ferry ride. John agreed to meet me at the local café. As he told me his story, it became quieter and quieter until everyone in the place was listening.

John described the tug as being thirty-six feet long and made of steel. It had a small wheelhouse and a cuddy below deck with two bunks. It was used to sort and gather logs into rafts for bigger coastal tugs to take from the central British Columbia coast to the pulp mills further south.  I learned that a logger had built the vessel in his backyard without a ship’s plan, inspection or approval. 

The logging operation shut down in winter, a common practice, because heavy rain and snow make it too difficult to work in the forest. The company decided to send the tug to Vancouver for an overhaul and hired John for the job, because he had logged the area and watched the nearby local tugs at work. John said he had always wanted to sail the coast on his own boat and now he had the chance to get paid for doing it. He asked a buddy, Nick*, to come along for company.

To earn more money on the trip, John and Nick were asked to tow three hulks to Vancouver for scrap. The first was a sixty-five foot wooden towboat near a logging camp.  When they boarded it, they found its towing winch and main engine were removed. The deck had been chopped open and the cabins exposed to the elements. The wheelhouse was intact.

John and Nick hooked up the hulk with a rope bridal as they had seen tug crews do. John had heard that he should have an axe handy to cut the towline in an emergency. Not understanding the concept, he placed the axe on the bow of the hulk they were towing instead of on their own vessel. Satisfied, they set off to pick up their next tow.

High winds, strong currents and sudden weather changes ravage BC’s central coast in winter. There are no cities and only a few isolated towns, logging camps and Indian reservations. Those that live on the central coast are as rugged as their habitat and fiercely independent. They shun government involvement of any kind.

Not knowing or asking what they would need for the voyage, John and Nick set out for a six-hundred mile, four-day trip through BC’s treacherous “Inside Passage” with the wrong call sign and without charts, sailing directions, tide tables or even a watch.

When the weather deteriorated, they sought shelter in a fjord for the night.  Having logged the area, flown in by seaplane and been taken across the fjord by crew boats, John told me he thought he knew the area “pretty well.” However, he did not know the fjord’s narrow entrance was best tackled at slack water because it was full of tiderips and whirlpools the rest of the time.

As soon as the tug reached the entrance, it plunged stern first into a whirlpool. The steering compartment hatch, set flush into the deck, had not been secured. The rush of water over the deck sucked it off its seat and flooded the compartment. The stern began to sink.  Being lighter and longer, the wooden hulk shot past the whirlpool and was about to overtake the sinking tug. John warned Nick to get off, so Nick leapt from the wheelhouse onto the bow of the hulk.

John did not escape as quickly and the suction pulled him underwater. He surfaced clutching a propane bottle for buoyancy. Nick threw him the end of a rope line and hauled him aboard. Then he grabbed the axe they had left on the hulk’s bow and chopped the bridal.

The seawater temperature was close to 0°C and John stood in wet gear on an exposed deck where the wind chill factor meant the air temperature was effectively -22°C. Nick filled a bucket with diesel left in one of the hulk’s engine room tanks and they retreated to the wheelhouse. John stripped off his wet clothes and Nick shared what he was wearing with him. Apparently neither man smoked, but Nick happened to have a cigarette lighter in his pocket. John found a book in the wheelhouse and lit its pages to start the diesel burning. Eventually the fire dried his clothes and they warmed up.

By morning, currents and high winds had driven the hulk to the head of the fjord. John and Nick knew there would not be anyone onshore to find them. Their only hope was to attract the attention of a passing boat. Since a bend at the entrance blocked off any view up the fjord from the sea, they had to get past the bend, a distance of about twenty-five miles.

Using the axe, they cut some of the spar ceiling from the inside of the engine room, and fashioned crude oars. Then they hacked holes in the bulwarks. Pushing the oars out, they set off to row the hulk down the fjord.

Whenever the tides were against them they barely held their position. When it turned in their favour, they rowed hard and slowly progressed toward the fjord’s entrance. It took three days and nights to reach it. They had no food and licked the dew off the inside of the hull to get water.

On the fourth morning they saw a large pleasure craft with an American flag on the stern jack.  To get the operator’s attention, they burned the remainder of the diesel in the bucket. The American came over to investigate and radioed for help. He used the crew boat call sign that the two men had given him.

Confusion abounded at first when various authorities were notified, because they had been given the wrong call sign.  Eventually a floatplane came to the American boat to pick up John and Nick and take them to hospital. They had survived their ordeal without serious problems.

When John finished his story and I switched off the tape recorder the silence was broken by a woman, who leaned round from the next booth and said, “You’ll let us know when the book is coming out won’t you”?

The names of the individuals have been changed to protect their privacy.

By Brian Kenefick

Brian Kenefick has a 1st Class Marine Engineer’s Certificate. The above incident happened when he was a Transportation Safety Board investigator. He is now the Manager of Transport Canada’s Marine Inspection Services in Vancouver BC. He lives with his wife who has a Master Mariner’s certificate.

TO RETURN TO FEATURES INDEX CLICK HERE

 

FEATURES

THE DEEPWATER HORIZON
Deepwater Horizon -The President's Report
Deepwater Horizon - The Progess of the Event

OTHER ACCIDENTS
The KULLUK Grounding
The Costa Concordia Report
The Costa Concordia Grounding
The Elgin Gas Leak
The Loss of the Normand Rough
The Bourbon Dolphin Accident
The Loss of the Stevns Power
Another Marine Disaster
Something About the P36
The Cormorant Alpha Accident
The Ocean Ranger Disaster
The Loss of the Ocean Express

OPERATIONS
The Life of the Oil Mariner
Offshore Technology and the Kursk
The Sovereign Explorer and the Black Marlin

SAFETY
Safety Case and SEMS
Practical Safety Case Development
Preventing Fires and Explosions Offshore
The ALARP Demonstration
PFEER, DCR and Verification
PFEER and the Dacon Scoop
Human Error and Heavy Weather Damage
Lifeboats & Offshore Installations
More about PFEER
The Offshore Safety Regime - Fit for the Next Decade
The Safety Case and its Future
Jigsaw
Collision Risk Management
Shuttle Tanker Collisions
A Good Prospect of Recovery

TECHNICAL
The History of the UT 704
The Peterhead Connection
Goodbye Kiss
Uses for New Ships
Supporting Deepwater Drilling
Jack-up Moving - An Overview
Seismic Surveying
Breaking the Ice
Tank Cleaning and the Environment
More about Mud Tank Cleaning
Datatrac
Tank Cleaning in 2004
Glossary of Terms

CREATIVE WRITING
An Unusual Investigation
Gaia and Oil Pollution
The True Price of Oil
Icebergs and Anchor-Handlers
Atlantic SOS
The Greatest Influence
How It Used to Be
Homemade Pizza
Goodbye Far Turbot
The Ship Manager
Running Aground
A Cook's Tale
Navigating the Channel
The Captain's Letter

GENERAL INTEREST
The Sealaunch Project
Ghost Ships of Hartlepool
Beam Him Up Scotty
Q790
The Bilbao OSV Conference