Marine Accident Report: Collision between barge and DUKW boat, Delaware River, Philadelphia, PA, July 7, 2010

Collision of Tugboat/Barge Caribbean Sea/The Resource
With Amphibious Passenger Vehicle DUKW 34
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
July 7, 2010
NTSB/MAR-11/XX

This is a synopsis from the Safety Board's report and does not include the Board's rationale for the conclusions, probable cause, and safety recommendations.  Safety Board staff is currently making final revisions to the report from which the attached conclusions and safety recommendations have been extracted.  The final report and pertinent safety recommendation letters will be distributed to recommendation recipients as soon as possible. The attached information is subject to further review and editing.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

On Wednesday, July 7, 2010, the empty 250-foot-long sludge barge The Resource,being towed alongside the 78.9-foot-long tugboat Caribbean Sea, collided with the anchored 33-foot amphibious passenger vehicle DUKW 34 in the Delaware River at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. DUKW 34 carried 35 passengers and 2 crewmembers. On board the Caribbean Seawere five crewmembers. As a result of the collision, DUKW 34 sank in about 55 feet of water. Two passengers were fatally injured, and 26 passengers suffered minor injuries. No one on the
Caribbean Sea was injured.

CONCLUSIONS

  1. The following were not a factor in the accident: qualifications of crewmembers on board the Caribbean Sea and DUKW 34 for the positions they held; use of alcohol, illicit drugs or prescribed or over-the-counter medications by the master and the mate of the Caribbean Sea or by the master and the deckhand of DUKW 34; meteorological conditions; river conditions and waterway configuration; functioning of the mechanical, electronic, and communications systems on board the Caribbean Sea; and functioning of the non-propulsion mechanical systems on board DUKW 34.
  2. The DUKW 34 surge tank pressure cap was not in place at the time of the accident, and the missing pressure cap allowed the engine coolant to boil and create steam that entered the passenger compartment and prompted the master to shut down the engine because he believed he had an onboard fire.
  3. The mechanics who performed post-trip inspections of DUKW 34 failed to ensure that the surge tank pressure cap was securely in place before allowing the vehicle to enter passenger service.
  4. Contrary to the master's instructions and contrary to his own postaccident statements, the mate of the Caribbean Sea was not navigating the vessel from the upper wheelhouse at the time of the collision.
  5. The mate of the Caribbean Sea failed to maintain an appropriate lookout, including monitoring the radios, while navigating the vessel because he was distracted by personal use of his cell phone and the company laptop computer in dealing with a serious family medical emergency.
  6. The mate of the Caribbean Sea should have been aware of his employer's prohibition of personal use of cell phones and company-provided computers while on watch, but on the day of the accident, he did not follow the policy.
  7. Had the mate of the Caribbean Sea informed the master or K-Sea Transportation management of the serious family medical emergency, he would likely have been granted relief from the watch.
  8. The actions of the Caribbean Sea master, before and after the accident, were appropriate.
  9. The DUKW 34 master's initial response (shutting down the engine and anchoring) to what he believed to be a fire on board the vessel was reasonable given his perception of the nature of the emergency.
  10. The DUKW 34 master did not fully appreciate or appropriately respond to the risk of a collision that faced DUKW 34 and its occupants once he had shut down the vessel's engine and anchored in the navigable channel.
  11. The DUKW 34 deckhand's personal use of his cell phone to send text messages while he was on the bow of the vessel distracted him from effectively performing his duty as a lookout.
  12.  Increased Coast Guard focus on and oversight of mariners' use of cell phones and other wireless electronic devices will prevent accidents and save lives.
  13. The emergency response to this accident was timely and effective.
  14. The DUKW 34 master's safety briefing before the accident trip did not adequately convey to the passengers the critical information they needed to be prepared to respond effectively to the emergency.
  15. Ride The Ducks International's written procedures for safe operational practices and emergency procedures on the water were comprehensive and exceeded requirements; however, they were not fully implemented by the crew of DUKW 34 or the shore-side personnel on the day of the accident.

PROBABLE CAUSE

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the mate of the Caribbean Sea to maintain a proper lookout due to (1) his decision to operate the vessel from the lower wheelhouse, which was contrary to expectations and to prudent seamanship, and (2) distraction and inattentiveness as a result of his repeated personal use of his cell phone and the company laptop computer while he was solely responsible for navigating the vessel. Contributing to the accident was the failure of Ride The Ducks International maintenance personnel to ensure that DUKW 34's surge tank pressure cap was securely in place before allowing the vehicle to return to passenger service, and the failure of the DUKW 34 master to take actions appropriate to the risk of anchoring his vessel in an active navigation channel.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As a result of this accident investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

To the U.S. Coast Guard:

Develop and implement an investigative protocol that directs your investigation officers to routinely check for nonoperational use of cell phones and other wireless electronic devices by on-duty crewmembers in safety-critical positions involved in marine accidents. (M-11-XX)

Revise your commercial vessel accident database (MISLE) to maintain a record of nonoperational use of cell phones and other wireless electronic devices by on-duty crewmembers in safety-critical positions when such use is causal or contributory to marine accidents. (M-11-XX)

Regulate and enforce the restriction on nonoperational use of cell phones and other wireless electronic devices by on-duty crewmembers in safety-critical positions so that such use does not adversely affect vessel operational safety. (M-11-XX)

Until you can develop regulations governing nonoperational use of cell phones and other wireless electronic devices by on-duty crewmembers in safety-critical positions, continue your outreach program of information and education to the maritime industry on this issue. (M-11-XX)

To Ride The Ducks International, LLC:

Review Ride The Ducks International's existing safety management program and develop improved means to ensure that the company's safety and emergency procedures are understood, and adhered to by employees in safety-critical positions. (M-11-XX)

To K-Sea Transportation Partners L.P.:

Review K-Sea Transportation's existing safety management program and develop improved means to ensure that the company's safety and emergency procedures are understood, and adhered to by employees in safety-critical positions. (M-11-XX)

To the American Waterways Operators:

Notify your members of the circumstances of this accident, and encourage your members to ensure that their safety and emergency procedures are understood and adhered to by their employees in safety-critical positions. (M-11-XX)