The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) compiles its Safer Seas Digest every year to summarize major accidents in the maritime industry. The publication is an important document that highlights important safety issues in the industry, areas that need more attention, and recommendations for making travel safer. The 2018 Digest includes issues such as emergency training, watertight failures, and high-water conditions among others.
High-Water and High-Current Accidents
According to the NTSB report, one of the most common causes of accidents involved conditions of high water, strong currents, or both. Tow and tugboats operating in these kinds of conditions are at risk for capsizing, flooding, and losing the vessel being towed. Crew may fall overboard or drown in these incidents. The NTSB recommends that vessels use multiple tow lines and that only experienced crew operate towing boats in the worst conditions.
Failure of Watertight Integrity on Vessels
Losing watertight integrity was the second leading cause of accidents last year, while it was first in 2017. Being watertight is essential for maritime safety, but the NTSB saw several incidents in which related safety features failed or were not maintained properly. To avoid accidents related to this issue, the NTSB recommends that watertight doors and hatches be maintained regularly and that they stay shut when vessels are underway.
Emergency Training for Crew
A couple of serious incidents from last year would have been less severe with better crew training. In one incident, the crew of the Honor had been trained well and was able to prevent a fire from getting out of control.
On the Island Lady passenger vessel in Florida, 15 people were injured after a fire broke out. The ship was declared a complete loss. The NTSB’s investigation found that several issues contributed to the outcome, including poor training in emergency procedures, which led the captain to continue operating a vessel that was overheating.
Accumulation of Ice
For vessels operating in cold conditions, ice accumulation can be a serious safety issue. The Destination in Alaska capsized after ice accumulated and unbalanced it. The captain of the ship made the decision to keep going in dangerous conditions and failed to make sure the ship would be stable. None of the six crew members could be found after the accident.
The NTSB recommends that ships keep less gear above deck during conditions of freezing spray, keeping gear covered on deck, having de-icing equipment on board, and making sure crew members are trained to use it.
Other areas of concern from 2018 accidents investigated by the NTSB include the chemistry of cooling water systems, mooring of vessels in conditions of strong winds, identifying and reacting appropriately to navigation hazards, fixed ventilation openings, propeller shaft metal fatigue, and unloading of catch on fishing vessels.