NTSB investigation of the allision of the bulk carrier Anna Smile with the Louis Dreyfus grain elevator while docking is included in Safer Seas Digest 2015 to highlight how the lack of communication from the engineering staff to the vessel’s bridge team and pilots as well as the absence of specific procedures and training for emergency engine operations may lead to incident.
The bulk carrier Anna Smile allided with the Louis Dreyfus grain elevator in Houston, Texas, at 0504 on July 14, 2014, while maneuvering during docking operations. Damage to the grain elevator and its foundation was estimated at $2.5 million. The Anna Smile suffered minor insets on the hull plating for a length of about 30 feet, but a damage estimate was not provided. The Anna Smile’s diesel engine was directly coupled to a fixed pitch propeller and could be remotely controlled from two locations during normal operations—the bridge or the engine control room (ECR). Typically, the engine was remotely operated from the bridge, but on the day of the accident it was being controlled from the manned ECR.
As the ship approached the pier, the pilot (one of two Houston pilots on board) ordered the engine to stop, which was properly executed from the ECR. The next order was dead slow astern, but the engine failed to start as expected. Two more astern commands were given, yet again there was no response.
The engine finally responded astern about 3 minutes after the first astern command was received. At the time, the Anna Smile was about 30 feet from the pier and moving very slowly, about 0.1 knots astern.
To bring the ship’s astern movement to a stop, the pilot ordered dead slow ahead, and once again the engine failed to start from the ECR console. The pilot ordered more ahead commands, each with no response. The chief engineer, third engineer, and electrician all left the ECR without calling the bridge; went into the machinery space; and began switching the engine to local control. During this time, the engine crew did not advise the bridge team, nor were the pilots made aware of the engine status or control location.
After noticing that the engine was not responding to their commands, the pilot ordered the engine to stop. The second mate called the ECR to check the status of the engine, unaware that the chief engineer had left the ECR and that the engine was no longer being controlled from this location. The bridge team was not advised to call the phone at the local engine control, as opposed to the ECR, to reach the chief engineer directly.
The lack of communication between the engine room and the bridge led to a period of confusion on the bridge. The captain began speaking in his native Greek language, while the Filipino second mate and helmsman spoke to each other in their native language. The captain repeatedly shouted, “Stop the engine!” into the phone, while the engine order telegraph rang unanswered for 47 seconds.
After engaging the local control station, the chief engineer started the engine at dead slow ahead despite the current stop command. Dead slow ahead was the last command that he was aware of before leaving the ECR. The engine continued to run in the ahead direction for about 1 minute until the chief engineer was told to stop the engine by the second engineer who ran down from the ECR. The main engine was eventually stopped by the engineers at the local control, but not before the starboard aft side of the Anna Smile made contact with the pier.
Following the accident, the engineering staff found excessive moisture in the control air system, which prevented the pneumatic changeover valves from functioning properly and starting the engine.
Interviews with the crew indicated that communication between the bridge and engineering teams broke down when the engine failed to start as expected and the engineers took control of the engine locally. The teams had no established procedures or training to effectively deal with such an emergency. The managing company’s safety management system did not provide specific guidance on how to deal with a failure of the main engine control system from the ECR, nor did it require training for emergency engine operations of this nature
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the allision of the bulk carrier Anna Smile with the Louis Dreyfus grain elevator while docking was a lack of communication from the engineering staff to the vessel’s bridge team and pilots while the vessel was experiencing problems with the starting system of the main engine as well as the absence of specific procedures and training for emergency engine operations.
Source & Image Credit: NTSB