Marine Accident Report - Allision of the Liberian Freighter Bright Field with the Poydras Street Wharf, Riverwalk Marketplace, and New Orleans Hilton Hotel

New Orleans, Louisiana
December 14, 1996

NTSB Number: MAR-98-01
NTIS Number: PB98-916401
Adopted January 13, 1998
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Executive Summary

Shortly after 1400 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.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of Clearsky Shipping Company to adequately manage and oversee the maintenance of the engineering plant aboard the Bright Field, with the result that the vessel temporarily lost power while navigating a highrisk area of the Mississippi River. Contributing to the amount of property damage and the number and types of injuries sustained during the accident was the failure of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, and International RiverCenter to adequately assess, manage, or mitigate the risks associated with locating unprotected commercial enterprises in areas vulnerable to vessel strikes.

The major safety issues identified in this investigation 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 of this accident, the Safety Board issued safety 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.

Recommendations

As a result of its investigation of this accident, and in addition to the safety recommendations issued previously to the U.S. Coast Guard, to the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, and to New Orleans Paddlewheels, Inc., the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

To the U.S. Coast Guard:

In cooperation with the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, reassess the risk of locating passenger vessels along the left descending bank of the Mississippi River and determine whether to remove the vessels to a less vulnerable location or put in place procedural, operational, or physical barriers that will protect these vessels from ramming by riverborne traffic. (M-98-1)

Conduct, with the cooperation of all stakeholders, a comprehensive risk assessment that considers all activities, marine and shoreside, within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-2)

Take the lead in working with the pilot associations serving the Port of New Orleans to evaluate the impact of operating vessels at full speed in the Mississippi River and incorporate that information in your risk-management and risk-reduction strategies for the port area. (M-98-3)

In cooperation with the appropriate stakeholders, including Federal, State, and local agencies; private commercial entities; shipowners; and pilot associations, implement risk-management and risk-mitigation initiatives that will ensure the safety of people and property within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-4)

To the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

Participate with the U.S. Coast Guard and other stakeholders in a comprehensive risk assessment that considers all activities, marine and shoreside, within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-5)

In cooperation with the appropriate stakeholders, including Federal, State, and local agencies; private commercial entities; shipowners; and pilot associations, implement risk-management and risk-mitigation initiatives that will ensure the safety of people and property within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-6)

To the State of Louisiana:

Participate with the U.S. Coast Guard and other stakeholders in a comprehensive risk assessment that considers all activities, marine and shoreside, within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-7)

In cooperation with the appropriate stakeholders, including Federal, State, and local agencies; private commercial entities; shipowners; and pilot associations, implement risk-management and risk-mitigation initiatives that will ensure the safety of people and property within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-8)

To the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans:

As part of the permit-approval process for new commercial and residential development along the wharves within your jurisdiction, require that any new construction of occupied space be sited behind a buffer zone sufficient to protect persons and property by safely absorbing the impact should a vessel strike the wharf. (M-98-9)

In cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard, reassess the risk of locating passenger vessels along the left descending bank of the Mississippi River and determine whether to remove the vessels to a less vulnerable location or put in place procedural, operational, or physical barriers that will protect these vessels from ramming by riverborne traffic. (M-98-10)

Participate with the U.S. Coast Guard and other stakeholders in a comprehensive risk assessment that considers all activities, marine and shoreside, within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-11)

In cooperation with the appropriate stakeholders, including Federal, State, and local agencies; private commercial entities; shipowners; and pilot associations, implement risk-management and risk-mitigation initiatives that will ensure the safety of people and property within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-12)

To International RiverCenter:

As previously suggested by the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, immediately enhance the safety of the patrons and employees of the Riverwalk complex by widening, by a minimum of 50 feet, that length of the Poydras Street wharf that has not previously been extended. (M-98-13)

Participate with the U.S. Coast Guard and other stakeholders in a comprehensive risk assessment that considers all activities, marine and shoreside, within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-14)

In cooperation with the appropriate stakeholders, including Federal, State, and local agencies; private commercial entities; shipowners; and pilot associations, implement risk-management and risk-mitigation initiatives that will ensure the safety of people and property within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-15)

To Clearsky Shipping Company:

Perform a baseline engineering assessment of the Bright Field's engineering plant and correct all conditions not in conformance with manufacturer's specifications. (M-98-16)

Institute an engineering testing, maintenance, repair, and company oversight program for the Bright Field that will ensure safe and reliable operation of the vessel's engineering plant. (M-98-17)

Provide your bridge and engineroom watchstanding officers and crewmembers with initial and recurrent bridge resource management training that includes communication and coordination between pilots and members of the bridge and engineroom watches and that addresses their use of bridge and engineroom systems. (M-98-18)

To New Orleans Paddlewheels, Inc.:

In accordance with the guidance published by the Passenger Vessel Association, require that nonoperating crewmembers on all your vessels participate in formal emergency training and drills in the proper handling of emergencies that have the potential to affect the persons in their charge. Maintain written records to verify nonoperating crew proficiency levels and skill retention. (M-98-19)

Review the existing methods of providing safety information to boarding passengers and make the necessary improvements to ensure that all vessel occupants receive recurring safety briefings, regardless of whether the vessel is scheduled to leave the dock. (M-98-20)

On all your vessels, post emergency instructions that are printed on fire- and heat-resistant material and that are clearly visible to all passengers both under normal conditions and during emergencies when lighting and visibility may be diminished. (M-98-21)

Participate with the U.S. Coast Guard and other stakeholders in a comprehensive risk assessment that considers all activities, marine and shoreside, within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-22) In cooperation with the appropriate stakeholders, including Federal, State, and local agencies; private commercial entities; shipowners; and pilot associations, implement risk-management and risk-mitigation initiatives that will ensure the safety of people and property within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-23)

To the New Orleans Baton Rouge Steamship Pilots Association:

Encourage your members to participate in initial and recurrent bridge resource management training that teaches the principles of resource management and that emphasizes team coordination between the pilot and crew. (M-98-24)

Participate with the U.S. Coast Guard and other stakeholders in a comprehensive risk assessment that considers all activities, marine and shoreside, within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-25)

In cooperation with the appropriate stakeholders, including Federal, State, and local agencies; private commercial entities; shipowners; and pilot associations, implement risk-management and risk-mitigation initiatives that will ensure the safety of people and property within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-26)

To the Crescent River Port Pilots Association:

Participate with the U.S. Coast Guard and other stakeholders in a comprehensive risk assessment that considers all activities, marine and shoreside, within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-27)

In cooperation with the appropriate stakeholders, including Federal, State, and local agencies; private commercial entities; shipowners; and pilot associations, implement risk-management and risk-mitigation initiatives that will ensure the safety of people and property within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-28)

To Associated Federal Pilots and Docking Masters of Louisiana, Inc.:

Participate with the U.S. Coast Guard and other stakeholders in a comprehensive risk assessment that considers all activities, marine and shoreside, within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-29)

In cooperation with the appropriate stakeholders, including Federal, State, and local agencies; private commercial entities; shipowners; and pilot associations, implement risk-management and risk-mitigation initiatives that will ensure the safety of people and property within the Port of New Orleans. (M-98-30)