National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, DC - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will convene a two-day public hearing in March in Portland, Maine, as part of its ongoing investigation into the September 27, 1996, accident when the "Julie N," a Liberian tankship, collided with the Million Dollar Bridge.
The ship, enroute to the Rolling Mills terminal, was under the direction of a state-licensed docking master when it struck the bridge and spilled about 170,000 gallons of oil into the waterway. There were no injuries, but the ship and bridge suffered substantial damage.
The hearing, scheduled for Thursday and Friday, March 13 and 14, will focus on two critical issues:
1. Federal drug and alcohol program for testing marine personnel after accidents.
2. Federal, state and local pollution risk assessment involving vessels carrying oil and navigating into the Portland harbor.
NTSB Board Member George Black will chair the hearing at the Sheraton Tara Hotel, 363 Maine Mall Road, South Portland (207) 775-6161.
"This hearing has nationwide importance," Black said, "because the same issues involved in this accident are present in virtually every port in the United States. They represent continuing problems for the marine industry and state and local governments."
Black added: "Accidents similar to the one in Portland pose significant hazards and risks to life, property and the environment."
Witnesses and experts will be called by an NTSB panel, including the ship's pilot and representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard, ship operator, Board of Harbor Commissioners and Maine Department of Transportation.
Questions will be asked by NTSB investigators and other groups assisting in the NTSB investigation. They include the Coast Guard, ship operator Maritime Overseas Corporation, Board of Harbor Commissioners, Maine Department of Transportation, and Liberian Services, an agency representing the Liberian government in maritime affairs.
Shortly after the accident occurred, the NTSB sent a five-person team to Portland that spent a week at the site. In addition to an investigator-in-charge, the team consisted of NTSB experts in human factors, marine engineering, human performance and bridge construction.
The NTSB, an independent federal accident investigation agency, is expected to issue a final report on the Portland accident later this year.
Since its creation in 1967, the Safety Board's mission has been to determine the "probable cause" of transportation accidents and formulate safety recommendations to improve transportation safety. Recommendations can be issued at any time during the course of an investigation.
The agency has about 350 employees in Washington, DC and nine field locations throughout the country. The NTSB investigates about 2,500 accidents annually including all U.S. civil aviation and government "public use" aircraft accidents, and major rail, marine, highway, pipeline and hazardous materials accidents.
Media Contact: NTSB Office of Public Affairs
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.