NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


September 17, 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board today found that the grounding of a high-speed passenger ferry in New Jersey last year was probably caused by the master's failure to use appropriate navigational tools and procedures.

Around 7:30 p.m. on January 4, 2001, the passenger ferry Finest, with 264 persons aboard, ran aground outside the channel to the Shrewsbury River, Sandy Hook Bay, New Jersey, while en route from New York City to Highlands, New Jersey. The vessel was refloated about 4 ½ hours later. No one was injured in the grounding and the vessel sustained no damage.

The master of the vessel deviated from the normal heading on approach to the river to avoid an ice field. Buoys were obscured by ice and the master used visual cues to guide the ship. The Board found that had he used navigational tools available to him, notably radar, he could have safely completed the journey. However, investigators learned that the master did not as a rule rely on navigational tools and therefore was not proficient in their use during a non-routine trip like that on the night of the accident.

Contributing to the cause of the grounding was the lack of readily visible fixed navigational aids, and the failure of the company, New York Fast Ferry, to require the use of installed navigation equipment and to set guidelines for operations in adverse environmental conditions.

The Board recommended that the Coast Guard install fixed beacons to augment or replace buoys at the entrance of Shrewsbury River channel. The Board also recommended that the company establish requirements that its crew members with navigational responsibilities become proficient in the use of installed navigational equipment, and that the company establish operations standards for navigation in adverse environmental conditions.

The NTSB addressed a situation that arose after the grounding, in which the company provided passengers with free alcoholic beverages while awaiting the refloating of the vessel. The Board agreed with the Coast Guard that this could result in safety problems during emergency situations. The Board recommended that the company establish a policy requiring the cessation of alcoholic beverage service during emergency situations.

A summary of the NTSB's report can be found on the Board's web site, www.ntsb.gov, under "Publications." The full report will appear on the web site in a few weeks.

NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100



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.