The incident

On February 2, 2016, at 2213 local time, the tanker Nordbay was southbound on the Lower Mississippi River in New Orleans, Louisiana, with a pilot on board when it allided with a dock and water intakes on the left descending bank. Less than an hour later, as the vessel maneuvered through another bend in the river while heading toward an anchorage, it allided with a wharf on the left descending bank. No pollution or injuries were reported. The dock, water intakes, the wharf, and the Nordbay sustained an estimated $6.4 million in total damage.

Probable Cause

NTSB determines that the probable cause of the Nordbay’s allisions with water intakes and docks was the pilot and the master not adequately assessing the risks of handling the ballasted vessel during high-river conditions with strong following currents while turning into the wind. Contributing was the bridge team’s poor situational awareness of the vessel’s position in the waterway. Contributing to the second allision was the master’s distraction from his duties while making a phone call.

Distracted Operations

Postaccident communications and notifications should never interfere with the safe operation of a vessel that is still under way. Control of the vessel and attention to the safe handling of the ship must be maintained at all times until the ship is safely anchored or moored. The presence of a pilot does not exempt the master and bridge team from their duty to safely navigate the ship.

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