The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has conducted an investigation and found that the bridge guards on two ships failed to maintain proper watches, leading to their collision near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, last year. The bulk carrier, Queen of It, and the offshore support vessel, Thunder, collided on July 23, 2022. The Queen of It, traveling on autopilot at 14.4 knots, struck the port side of the Thunder, which was traveling at 9 knots. The collision caused significant property damage, resulting in flooding in one of Thunder’s power rooms and three other areas. No casualties or pollution were reported, but the collision caused $12.3 million in damage to both ships.
Both ships had radar and automatic identification system receivers capable of recognizing each other. However, prior to the collision, none of the officers on watch on the ships were properly on the lookout, either by visual inspection or by using the available electronic systems to avoid a collision. Both officers admitted that they were distracted by non-navigational tasks. The master on the Thunder was found to be using his mobile phone while the second officer on Queen of It was busy with other tasks. The NTSB concluded that the likely cause of the collision was vehicle distraction of Queen of It’s officer due to non-navigational duties and the distraction of Thunder’s officer for cell phone use. As a result, both officers failed to keep a proper lookout.
According to the Convention on the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea, every ship is required to keep a proper lookout by visual observation, hearing, and any suitable means available. The Thunder’s officer on duty did not follow the company’s guard policy, which added to the accident. The report stressed the dangerous consequences of using cell phones while on duty, leading to visual, manual, and cognitive distraction. It warned against the inoperable use of cell phones and other wireless electronic devices and emphasized the importance of following established protocols on mobile phone use to prevent accidents in all modes of transportation.
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