Just to remind all masters and mates the consequences to keep one’s face in a bloody computer while one should be actually “ON WATCH”!
June 19, 2012
Irony #1: A tug named Pathfinder sets a course directly towards a well-known and clearly marked rock pile in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.
Irony #2: The tug is part of a fleet of escort and response vessels under contract to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. to ensure the safe transit of tankers to and from its crude oil terminal in Valdez, Alaska.
Irony #3: The tug runs aground at full speed on Bligh Reef, the same reef that snagged the Exxon Valdez and set in motion changes to the oil transportation industry that included escort and response tugs in Prince William Sound.
Irony #4: Three weeks prior to the Dec. 23, 2009, grounding, which released some 6,410 gals. of diesel fuel into the surrounding waters, the Pathfinder received an award for environmental excellence at a Chamber of Shipping of America ceremony for 32 years of service without an incident.
Last Friday, the former captain of the Pathfinder, Ronald Monsen, was sentenced in federal court to 36 months of probation with the first six months to be spent in home confinement. Monsen was also fined $15,000 and will be required to do 50 hours of community service. Monsen had previously pleaded guilty to violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
The Justice Department press release from acting U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis in Anchorage, Alaska, reveals what happened:
“After scouting for ice, Capt. Monsen kept the Pathfinder in Prince William Sound until it was time to communicate his ice report at 6:00 p.m., expecting that he would then be released from scout duty and be allowed to return to Valdez harbor. While waiting until 6:00 p.m., Monsen altered the autopilot course back to Valdez by manually bypassing or skipping two way points on the pre-programmed Global Positioning System (GPS) course that would safely guide the Pathfinder ’s travel out of Prince William Sound and back to Valdez harbor.
“At 6:00 p.m., the second mate called in the ice report and the tug was released from ice duty. Monsen then reached over the second mate, placed both engines full speed ahead, and engaged the autopilot to steer the vessel directly to the Rocky Point waypoint. Monsen did not chart his position, or attempt to determine his exact location via GPS or any other method. As a result, when Monsen engaged this course, he did not know the location of the Pathfinder , was unaware that the vessel was 1.5 miles due south of Bligh Reef, and did not recognize that he had just set a course that was taking the Pathfinder directly into the reef.”
After hitting the throttles, Monsen turned to the bridge computer, which required facing aft, and “checked his e-mail and schedules and played computer games.” The vessel was left on autopilot “and no one was at the controls,” said Feldis.
Hello Bligh Reef. Goodbye job, career, reputation, six months of freedom and $15,000.
The Pathfinder was eventually towed back to Seattle, where it remains in “layup status.”
I wonder what happened to the award plaque?
PATHFINDER is for sale now but needs millions to put her right! Pity, that was a darned good tug for Crowley but now it’s just junk!