Most compelling maritime disaster stories

M/V Donna Paz. Google “Asia’s Titanic” for Nat Geo documentary on YouTube. Plenty of blame to go around with nobody accepting it. Bad situation all the way. 4,000 people, govt cover up.

MS Al Salam Boccaccio 98, a RO-RO passenger ferry sank February 2006 en route from Duba, Saudi Arabia, to Safaga in southern Egypt, Fire believed to have started prior to leaving port but the ship left anyway. The ship capsized when stability was lost due to water accumulation from the crew fighting the fire. Over 1000 fatalities.

Both the Willamette Pilot III and the Eagle were mentioned on this thread.

There was the Burma Agate collision and fire off Galveston in '79.

Are we counting shoreside maritime incidents as well?
Texas City - 1947
Halifax - 1917

OMI Challenger, Dockwise boat sinks in the Luanda Harbor: And then there was, you know, the entire Atlantic Hurricane Season of 2005

how about miracles at sea?

When the Tug Alert had the Kulluk in tow the captain said he lost the lights that were mounted on the top of the wheelhouse. I’d like to see that story told although it doesn’t rate as a disaster.

Kalee Thompson wrote about the Alaska Ranger sinking. - I’d like to her write the whole story about the loss, recovery and loss of the Kulluk…

Deadliest Sea by Kalee Thompson is the spellbinding true story of the greatest rescue in U.S. Coast Guard history. Recounting the tragic sinking of the fishing trawler, Alaska Ranger, in the Bering Sea and its remarkable aftermath in March 2008, Deadliest Sea is real life action and adventure at its finest. The full story of an amazing rescue—where extraordinary courage, ingenuity, will, and technology combined in one of the most remarkable maritime feats ever recorded—has never been told before now. It’s The Perfect Storm meets Deadliest Catch.

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I have written a book which goes pretty deeply into the reports of 29 offshore accidents and have produced an analysis of each in the hope that the results would assist those in the business in the future, without them having to read the complete reports. These include the Kulluk accident and the Glomar Java Sea (if you type the name into Google my work comes up on the front page). I did this on the basis that one of the requirements of a competent Safety Case compiler is that he or she reviews accidents which have occurred in the industry so that the lessons learnt can be included in the safety case. I probably don’t have to say that very few lessons actually seem to have been learnt. Of particular interest to mariners might be the case of the Bourbon Dolphin which capsized with the loss of eight lives during an anchor-handling job west of Shetland in 2007. I was part of the team which investigated the accident on behalf of Chevron, the operator. The Norwegian government carried out an investigation as did the UK Health and Safety Executive, and I have read somewhere on this forum that you should never hire anybody to investigate an accident who thinks they know how it happened. Both bodies could have benefited from that advice. Numerous recommendations were made, most of limited value, based, in my view, on a failure to determine the root cause, and this due to the fact that no-one in either group of investigators seemed to have any knowledge about how the job was actually done. I could go on – but anyway it’s worth a look. And the best investigation report ever – that into the loss of the Ocean Ranger. It is detailed, expert and distressing.

OMI CHALLENGER or OMI CHARGER. . .Don’t know anything about the CHALLENGER but was very much involved with the CHARGER. . .

Oops sorry about that! You are correct. I was still in school and waitressing at a place down on the Galveston Ship Channel when that thing blew.

The Bourbon Dolphin accident DID make a difference, but only for Norwegian vessels and operations in Norwegian waters. Some of the new rules will become IMO rules soon.

The recommendations were applied in the UK sector as well, on vessels of any nationality. I was involved in their application myself. I said they were of limited value, not no value at all.

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The May 31, 1973 collision of the containership Sea Witch and the fully loaded tanker Esso Brussels in lower New York Harbor. 16 crewmen killed in the resulting fire, which had flames so high they scorched the underside of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Three commercial tugs and a city fireboat received Gallant Ship declarations for their efforts to rescue the surviving crews. Here is the NTSB Report link, which opens a PDF:

And here’s a recap with pics from the Fireboat Fire Fighter’s website:

And Sea Witch’s stern and machinery still sailing today as the mighty Chemical Pioneer!

I stand corrected. Didn’t know that the changes were applied to UK operations, not only to UK vessels working in Norwegian waters.

Agree that the new rules are not perfect, but at least something came off the loss of the 8 lives on the B.D. That doesn’t happen everytime and everywhere when there are accidents.

BTW; the worst accident in the offshore industry was the Piper Alpha, which caused the loss of 167 lives. That also caused changes to the way things are done, but the jury is still out on whether it was enough. In any case, little was made retroactive for older platforms and fields, or made international. (There are no IMO eqv. for fixed installations)

I’m not sure the Chevron Report were totally unbiased. After all it was made for one party in the case.

What I miss from all of it is clear lines on the responsibilities of an independent Towmaster/Rigmover. I have been in that position on and off since 1974, but have never heard of any case where this has been tested in a Maritime Court.
You kind of have to make your own “rules” to try to avoid coming in a position of legal and monetary responsibility. (And otherwise hope that your “rules” will never be tested)

I finally gave up working in the North Sea because I knew that sooner or later, pressing the AHT Captains to do things in marginal condition would backfire and somebody get killed. The final straw was watching the deck crew being swamped while trying to run an anchor in Force 8-9 conditions on my bidding.

I was gonna say Seawitch/Esso Brussels, but you beat me to it. I feel like it’s well known among mariners by not many outside of or community remember or know about it.

Another tug, this one belonged to the company I worked for, the Marine Constructor caught fire between California and Hawaii, two crew members did not survive, at the time, it was California Air National Guards farthest at sea rescue

You raise a number of interesting points, and I can say that things improved quite a bit in the North sea when the ships got a bit bigger and more powerful. As far as the Towmaster’s legal responsibility is concerned the US Coast Guard ruled that after the Ocean Express sank the OIM/Toolpusher/Rig Superintendent was in charge and the Rig Mover an advisor. The UK HSE also seem to have taken the same view in the case of the Bourbon Dolphin, ruling that one of the errors was that the Towmaster never informed the OIM about the problems with the ship, which has existed for hours. I have also been given a document signed by an OIM appointing me as Towmaster, and I have been out as a “Marine Representative” effectively looking after the operator’s assets, and therefore being in charge of the ships the rig and the Towmasters. So clear as mud really.

That is true. The major change was when the UT 704 AHTS was introduced and became the new standard for offshore vessels nearly everywhere. I posted on this subject in this forum some time back: History of the UT 704

Yes I have also been on all types of rigs and in many different positions during rigmoves and for other purposes. (Sometimes wearing two hats as well. If anything had gone wrong in such situation, it would have been difficult to “talk yourself out of it”)

My general rule has always been to ensure that whoever were Person-in-Charge (PIC) were kept informed of any problems, if time permitted, which is not always possible. I also had as a principle that I did not operate any equipment myself, but always ask for somebody in the rig crew to do so. (Incl. the jacking or winch panels, except if I was the PIC) When “the sh*t hit the fan” I could tell another person which button to press and when, but not doing it myself.

Once I had a problem; I was acting as Marine Rep. with strict orders to be “hands-off” observer only.
When I joined the first rig it was one were I had been many times before as MWS, but even so always took charge of “talking to the boats”, especially when positioning on platforms etc.

They automatically gave me the radio as usual, which caused all kinds of consternation when I told them that I was not allowed to do so. I ended up taking over when tings was about to go wrong approaching a platform, with pipelines in all directions.

A few rigmoves later when the same rig returned from a stint at a shipyard, I arrived on board a bit late due to heli-problem and found the rig being towed in circles, awaiting my arrival.