Collision–Thetis Rammed by Barge/Tug

USCGC Thetis damage sustained in a collision in the Panama Canal 0111 local, 2 June 2016

The Cutter Thetis (WMEC-910) was hit in the stern by a barge being pushed by a tug, while transiting the Panama Canal, 2 June 2016. The channel was about 270 yards wide at the site of the collision. Thetis was ahead slow at about 4-4.5 knots. The tug and barge combination was full ahead doing 10.5-11 knots. Its radar was off because “he had clear forward visibility.” The captain of the tug never saw the Thetis until after the collision.

The tug was clearly at fault, but the NTSB also found that “Thetis did not maintain a sufficient and proper lookout.”

Mostly Thetis was doing everything right, but they only had one lookout and he was unable to see traffic over a wide sector astern and to port. A longer sound powered telephone cord that would have allowed the lookout to move to the port side might have made a difference.

Thetis had watches on AIS and on radar on the bridge and CIC, but attempts to mitigate or prevent the collision came to late. There was also no mention of sounding the danger signal.

Some times it is missing the basics that come back to bite you.

USCG Actions Post-accident

Since the accident, the Coast Guard cutter Thetis has implemented the following changes:

  • The shipping officer’s responsibilities, as outlined in the onboard guidance, were amended to require that an individual be qualified as deck watch officer, preferably as an underway deck watch officer, before assuming the role of shipping officer.
  • An additional dedicated lookout position was added to the aft area of the Thetis for long transits in restricted waters.
  • A radar-tuning policy was established that prohibits both the SeaWatch and the radar systems from being offset from the automatic tuning mode when transiting in restricted waters, in order to ensure the optimal traffic image.

I might add you don’t have to be in “long transits in restricted waters” for someone to come up your ass. Check your GQ watch bill as well.

Thanks to Bryant’s Maritime Blog for bringing this to my attention. 

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