Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Improving Mooring Operations on Car Ships

A Coast Guard Inspector from Marine Safety Detachment Santa Barbara looks over the damage after the Freighter Otello allided with a pier at Port Hueneme, Calif. (USCG Photo)

I wasn't there when the car ship Otello hit the pier in Port Hueneme but I bet I know what the both the pilot and captain were doing moments before the starboard quarter of the ship struck the pier. They were both watching the bow.

What happens is this, the pilot and captain intently peer over the wing watching the bow, the pilot controlling two tugs and the main engine, the rudder, and the thruster, The pilot, his focus forward, having forgotten his last command to the aft tug to push and the captain, not fully trusting that the pilot can cope with the bow closing too fast, watches forward as well. Meanwhile, 180 meters aft, the stern swings into the pier.

The root cause of this incident, all the mooring expertise is focused upon what apparently is the problem, the bow closing on the pier. It is my experience that often a glance aft or a word from the captain will remind the pilot to have a look back and give the aft tug the proper command.

Pilot and captain should cooperate during mooring operations for optimum results.


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