On 7 March 2019, at 1020 local time, the towing vessel Leviticus was pushing six barges downbound on the Lower Mississippi River at mile 208.5 near Sunshine, Louisiana, with a crew of eight onboard.
While transiting through a river bend, the lead barges of the tow contacted barges moored at the Plaquemine Point Shipyard, breaking free a total of 11 barges.
The 27 shipyard workers onboard the barges were able to evacuate before contact; 10 sustained minor injuries.
All barges were later recovered, and no pollution was reported. Damage to the shipyard ($520,000) and the tow ($19,500) amounted to an estimated $539,500.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the contact of the Leviticus tow with the Plaquemine Point Shipyard was the captain’s decision to continue the training of an apprentice mate/steersman while navigating a challenging river bend downbound and meeting upbound traffic in high-water conditions.
-Transiting Hazardous Areas When Trainees Operate Towing Vessels
Trainers should have heightened attention when trainees are operating a vessel, especially during strong current conditions, navigating dangerous bends, transiting high-traffic areas, and other areas of known risk.
When allowing trainees to operate under these circumstances, their experiences and skill levels should be considered.
Captains should also encourage trainees to speak up at the earliest time of concern or any time when in doubt.
Non-pertinent conversation and other distractions should be avoided.
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