Marine Accident Report

Allision of the Liberian Freighter Bright Field
with the Poydras Street Wharf, Riverwalk Marketplace,
and New Orleans Hilton Hotel in
New Orleans, Louisiana
December 14, 1996

NTSB Number MAR-98/01
NTIS Number PB98-916401
PDF Document (1.4M)

Abstract: On December 14, 1996, the fully loaded Liberian bulk carrier Bright Field temporarily lost propulsion power as the vessel was navigating outbound in the Lower Mississippi River at New Orleans, Louisiana. The vessel struck a wharf adjacent to a populated commercial area that included a shopping mall, a condominium parking garage, and a hotel. No fatalities resulted from the accident, and no one aboard the Bright Field was injured; however, 4 serious injuries and 58 minor injuries were sustained during evacuations of shore facilities, a gaming vessel, and an excursion vessel located near the impact area. Total property damages to the Bright Field and to shoreside facilities were estimated at about $20 million.

The safety issues discussed in this report are the adequacy of the ship’s main engine and automation systems, the adequacy of emergency preparedness and evacuation plans of vessels moored in the Poydras Street wharf area, and the adequacy of port risk assessment for activities within the Port of New Orleans. This report also addresses three other issues: the actions of the pilot and crew during the emergency, the lack of effective communication (as it relates to the actions of the pilot and crew aboard the Bright Field on the day of the accident), and the delay in administering toxicological tests to the vessel crew.

As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board issued recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Louisiana, the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, International RiverCenter, Clearsky Shipping Company, New Orleans Paddlewheels, Inc., the New Orleans Baton Rouge Steamship Pilots Association, the Crescent River Port Pilots Association, and Associated Federal Pilots and Docking Masters of Louisiana, Inc.