Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation M-15-004
Details
Synopsis: On March 22, 2014, about 1235 central daylight time, the 607-foot-long bulk carrier Summer Wind with a Houston pilot on board collided with the 670-foot-long Miss Susan tow (a 70-foot-long towing vessel and two 300-foot-long tank barges loaded with fuel oil) in the Houston Ship Channel, Lower Galveston Bay, Texas. The visibility was restricted at the time due to fog. The bulk carrier was inbound to Houston, traveling in a north direction. The tow was bound for Port Bolivar on the east side of the Houston Ship Channel, traveling in an east direction. The collision breached the hull of the forward tank barge in the Miss Susan tow, and about 168,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled into the waterway. Two crewmembers on board the Miss Susan sustained minor injuries related to inhalation of fuel vapor. The total estimated damage was nearly $1,378,000 (excluding oil response and recovery efforts). The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determines that the probable cause of the collision was the Miss Susan captain’s attempt to cross the Houston Ship Channel ahead of the Summer Wind, thereby impeding the passage of the bulk carrier, which could transit only within the confines of the channel. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the Houston pilot and the Summer Wind master to set a safe speed given the restricted visibility and nearby towing vessel traffic, and the failure of the Miss Susan captain and the Houston pilot to establish early radio communication with one another. Also contributing to the accident was the failure of Vessel Traffic Service Houston/Galveston to interact with the two vessels in a developing risk of collision, and the lack of a Coast Guard vessel separation policy for the Bolivar Roads Precautionary Area.
Recommendation: TO THE AMERICAN WATERWAYS OPERATORS: Inform your members of the circumstances of this accident and the need for towing vessels that transport hazardous materials to carry direct-reading air monitoring equipment, so that crews can identify combustible or explosive atmospheres, oxygen deficiency, and toxic substances that may present risk of serious injury.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Acceptable Response
Mode: Marine
Location: Galveston, TX, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA14FM008
Accident Reports: Collision between Bulk Carrier Summer Wind and the Miss Susan Tow
Report #: MAR-15-01
Accident Date: 3/22/2014
Issue Date: 6/18/2015
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: American Waterways Operators (Open - Acceptable Response)
Keyword(s): Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: American Waterways Operators
Date: 11/23/2015
Response: We are pleased to learn that, on September 24, 2015, you issued a note to your membership advising them of Safety Recommendation M-15-4. We understand that you plan to convene a working group to determine whether the carriage and utilization of direct-reading air monitoring equipment is feasible or appropriate for towing vessel crewmembers. Because you indicated that you wish to include NTSB staff in these deliberations, please contact Captain Morgan Turrell or Mr. Michael Brown. Pending completion of your efforts, Safety Recommendation M-15-4 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: American Waterways Operators
To: NTSB
Date: 10/2/2015
Response: -From Thomas A. Allegretti, President and CEO: In response to this recommendation, AWO has taken the following actions: •?On August 18, AWO’s Safety Leadership Advisory Panel, which comprises the leadership of our Interregion and Coastal Safety Committees, discussed the NTSB’s recommendation at its semiannual meeting. The Panel agreed to convene a working group drawn from the membership of the Safety Committees to examine the Safety Recommendation in further detail and determine whether the carriage and utilization of direct-reading air monitoring equipment is feasible and appropriate for towing vessel crewmembers. The Panel agreed that further discussion with NTSB Marine Safety staff would be helpful to AWO members in better understanding the intent of the recommendation. •?In the September 24, 2015 issue of the AWO Letter, our biweekly newsletter that is disseminated to 1500 AWO members, AWO published an article entitled, “NTSB Issues Safety Recommendation to AWO.” The story described the circumstances of the accident, summarized the findings of the NTSB investigation as they related to the vapor inhalation injuries reported by the crewmembers of the Miss Susan, and discussed the Safety Leadership Advisory Panel’s plan to convene a working group to consider the feasibility and appropriateness of carrying and utilizing direct-reading air monitoring equipment onboard towing vessels. A copy of the article is attached. Thank you again for the opportunity to respond to the NTSB’s Safety Recommendation M-15-4. AWO is pleased to work with the NTSB to support our mutual goal of improving safety in the tugboat, towboat and barge industry. The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a safety recommendation to AWO as a result of its investigation and report on a March 2014 collision in the Houston Ship Channel between a bulk carrier and a tow made up of a towing vessel pushing two tank barges that resulted in the release of fuel oil into the waterway. Following the accident, two crewmembers on board the towing vessel reported vapor inhalation injuries. The NTSB has asked AWO to inform its members of the circumstances of the accident and advise members of the NTSB’s finding that there is a “need for towing vessels that transport hazardous materials to carry direct-reading air monitoring equipment, so that crews can identify combustible or explosive atmospheres, oxygen deficiency, and toxic substances that may present risk of serious injury.” AWO’s Safety Leadership Advisory Panel reviewed the NTSB recommendation at its meeting last month and plans to convene a working group drawn from members of the Interregion and Coastal Safety Committees to determine whether the carriage and utilization of direct reading air monitoring equipment is feasible or appropriate for towing vessel crewmembers.