USCG releases Mississippi spill probe findings
The Coast Guard has released preliminary findings from the independent formal investigation into the collision that led to last month's major spill of No. 6 fuel oil into the Mississippi.
The Coast Guard closed the river after the 46,764 dwt Liberian-flag chemical tank ship, Tintomara, collided with an American Commercial Lines barge that was being pushed by the DRD Towing Company, L.L.C, tug boat, Mel Oliver, at approximately 1:30 a.m., Wednesday, July 23, 2008.
The independent investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard was initiated by Rear Adm. Joel R. Whitehead, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District.
Initial findings of fact are as follows:
1. There were no mechanical or electrical issues with the Tintamara.
2. There were no crew competency issues with the Tintamara.
3. There were no competency issues with the pilot aboard the Tintamara.
4. The Tintamara did call out via radio to the Mel Oliver prior to the collision.
5. The captain of the Mel Oliver was not aboard the vessel at the time of the collision.
6. Mel Oliver had an assigned crew of a Captain, Steersman apprentice, and two deck hands.
7. The steersman apprentice was operating the Mel Oliver at the time of the collision. He was licensed but his license did not authorize him to operate the vessel without the captain's presence in the wheelhouse.
8. The Mel Oliver did not return the radio call outs from the Tintamara prior to the collision.
9. Vessel traffic service did call out to the Mel Oliver prior to the collision.
10. The Mel Oliver did not answer the vessel traffic service prior to the collision.
11. The Mel Oliver was moving the barge DM 932.
12. As the Mel Oliver was pushing against the bow of barge DM 392, the Tintamara made contact with the port side of barge DM 392.
13. Drug and alcohol testing was done on the bridge and watch crew of the Tintamara and the Mel Oliver.
14. An independent survey relating to the mechanical and electrical system was conducted on the Mel Oliver and it has been moved to dry dock to be inspected, reports on the survey and the inspection are pending.
15. The formal hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 12, 2008.
16. The pilot of the Tintamara, the Tintamara, the steersman of the Mel Oliver, the Captain of the Mel Oliver, DRD towing, American Commercial Lines, and the Mel Oliver have been named as parties of interest, official letters were sent out Aug. 1, 2008.
The Coast Guard has also released video from the VTS that includes the radio communications between the parties. It warns that "some language in the video may not be appropriate for all viewers" (in fact, it's pretty mild, considering the circumstances!)
You can access the video here: