The Mel Oliver collision

Watch, listen, and learn. Comments welcome.

Just to clarify a few things you will see on the playback:

  1. The vessel Tintamara has a pilot onboard that goes by ‘16’ on the audio playback.
  2. There is no audio until about a minute into the playback.
  3. Things start getting dicey around the 3 minute mark.
  4. Here are some initial USCG findings (courtesy Professional Mariner):
    The captain of the Mel Oliver was not aboard the vessel at the time of the collision.
    Mel Oliver had an assigned crew of a Captain, Steersman apprentice, and two deck hands.
    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.
    (The captain of the Mel Oliver testified that he left his boat for three days to follow up on a tip that his girlfriend was seeing another man. The captain said the apprentice mate he left behind had captained vessels previously.)
    The Mel Oliver did not return the radio call outs from the Tintamara prior to the collision.
    Vessel traffic service did call out to the Mel Oliver prior to the collision.
    The Mel Oliver did not answer the vessel traffic service prior to the collision.

The Mississippi River oil spill occurred on July 23 when the tanker Tintomara and a barge carrying 419,000 gallons of oil – being towed by the Mel Oliver – collided. The barge split in half, spilling much of its cargo into the river. It is estimated that about 280,000 gallons of oil actually spilled into the Mississippi. The spill was the worst to ever occur on the lower Mississippi River.

[B]comments:[/B]
“go figure”…“apprentice mate/steersman program”…“do the math”

And…?

Danzante,
everybody is waiting to hear about the cheating girlfriend.
Did the captain find the bastard in his bedroom?
…or was it all in vain?

Wow . . . my hands got sweaty just watching/listening to that!

Ok…we know he can’t steer but…did he not know how to use a radio either? Did I miss something; he never came back or did I miss it? Was he told by the Captain to maintain radio silence too???

When I use to have my Sportfish, we had to make that run down on one and were at this location about 2300HRS. The traffic is very controlled and it is hard to imagine that he had not had any radio communication for any period to get where he was. I just do not understand why he did not respond. Maybe I missed it, was he in the wheelhouse?

Danzante states:
"…The Mel Oliver did not return the radio call outs from the Tintamara prior to the collision.
Vessel traffic service did call out to the Mel Oliver prior to the collision.
The Mel Oliver did not answer the vessel traffic service prior to the collision."

But why no response??

Just my opinion but he probably didn’t have the radio on; if it was on he didn’t know how to use it; if it was on and he didn’t know how to use it he was probably scared shitless and made poor decisions as a result.

Give the guy a break…Who else thinks they can talk on the VHF with their head up their ass?

[B][I]Hey… wooooah.[/I][/B]

I know, not funny.

I think he either (1) had port engine problems; (2) he left the wheelhouse or (3) fell asleep. If you study the video, he was staying close to the bank and then he went hard to port. Even if his radio was off, there is no reasonable explanation for this maneuver unless it was either uncontrollable or he simply was below or asleep. {maybe a death wish is another explanation}

[B][I]Left the wheelhouse alright…read here Professional Mariner.com[/I][/B]

[quote=danzante;21546]Just to clarify a few things you will see on the playback:

Mel Oliver had an assigned crew of a Captain, Steersman apprentice, and two deck hands.
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.
(The captain of the Mel Oliver testified that he left his boat for three days to follow up on a tip that his girlfriend was seeing another man. The captain said the apprentice mate he left behind had captained vessels previously.)
The Mel Oliver did not return the radio call outs from the Tintamara prior to the collision.
Vessel traffic service did call out to the Mel Oliver prior to the collision.
The Mel Oliver did not answer the vessel traffic service prior to the collision.

[/quote]

4 crew?
Captain had his problems at home.
3 Remain on board.
"The steersman apprentice was operating… etc"
2 remain. (???)

It seams that only one man was on the bridge, steering probably, and had no time to reply on the call.
We dont know where is VHF positioned from the wheel - and if this far enough, with one man steering not able to grab the set, that why he didnt reply.

The question is: where the 2 remaining guys have been?

And whatthehell did captain find at home?

The captain was just sentenced to 3 years probation for this incident. You can read more at http://gcaptain.com/captain-mv-oliver-sentenced?24119.

…All vhf radios are conveniately located aboard tugs for masters to easily communicate…especially with a company like a.c.l. The captain left and didnt return for a couple days and the steersman was having to pull both watches and catching short naps when he could. Its obvious the steersman passed out behind the sticks and layed on the sticks to force them hard over…because if you listen to the video the ship pilot first calls traffic on 16 when he notices the mel is crossways in the river and soon to be crossing his bow… Traffic and the pilot of the titiana call the mel mutiple times and dead silence is present when they wait for him to respond…The video is on youtube and the deckhands that were on the mel comment on the video. Admitting they were in the galley when they heard the 5 whistles…In my opinion the pilot of the ship should have started backing down when he first saw the mel crossways.Even though she was the stand on vessel.and downbound with the current giving her the right of way…he did not perform or react as a professional mariner…with his profanity on the radio and last minute danger signal…if I were the judge I would have stripped all three of their licenses because 280,000 barrels of no.6 oil in the river could have been prevented or even attempted a little better than what happened

Why? The Mel Oliver was at fault. At fault by about 6 different reasons.

  1. The master of the vessel left without being properly relieved.
  2. The vessel was being operated illegally (for who knows how long?) Over 12 hours a day, with only only one operator. This was WITH the apprentice standing watches prior to the master departing.
  3. The company KNEW the vessel was manned incorrectly.
  4. The apprentice either was ignorant or delusional about his qualifications to run a towboat. ( he had no completed TOAR or license to stand his own watch)
  5. The apprentice got underway (instead of informing the office there was NO license aboard.)
  6. The apprentice couldn’t answer the radio because he fell asleep. Asleep doing a job be wasn’t qualified, licensed, experienced, or mature enough to realize his limits. (Or that they even existed)

What transpired over the radio is useless BS, which is unrelated to the incident. That radio chatter would NOT have happened if the DRD Towing vessel Mel Oliver (AWO approved, UTV inspected towing vessel ) HAD been operated in accordance to applicable law, standard industry practice and common sense.
The proper people were punished. The master and the apprentice and DRD towing. It is too bad the whole management of DRD wasn’t held accountable too.

This an awesome lesson to any new apprentice coming along who thinks they are too good already and they can skirt the requisite training and time needed to actually learn the job and be completely responsible while doing it.

This also is an important reminder that is the operators responsibility to judge if they ACTUALLY are competent to do a job, and if the conditions warrant to refuse to do a job if it is ‘over their head.’. Then again that maturity does not come in a can (or a classroom either!)

[QUOTE=cappy208;60156]…4. The apprentice either was ignorant or delusional about his qualifications to run a towboat. ( he had no completed TOAR or license to stand his own watch)[/QUOTE]

The Apprentice Mate had a pending application for mate at the NMC. It was denied because the Designated Examiner signed off a western rivers TOAR and was only approved to sign off Inland TOARs.

All of your suggestions are true and number five pretty much sums it all up. He should have not got underway but he was apparently trying to cover for his buddy and wasnt thinking of his self. Its not that he couldnt run a boat its that he made a horrible decision based on his sleep deprivation…The deck crew and alot of people said he ran the boat better than the captain that left so thats clearly wasnt the issue…How could you say the radio interecept was bs? It proves that the river pilot made poor decisions under extreme pressure and may or may not have been able to act upon the situation as a professional mariner…First of all he didnt sound 5 whisles until the last min…(i.dont understand your intentions) should have been sounded the sec time the mel didnt respond…the deckhand clearly states “I heard the whistles ,looked out the galley door,and all i had time to do was grab the door frame”…maybe if the whisles would have been sounded sooner it would have woke up the unlicensed mariner behind the sticks…or if the titaina would have started backing down the min she (didnt understand her intentions) the mel could have passed in front of her bow considering she his the barge in the no.2 tanks…

In my eyes its clear that the crew on the mel should never work on the water again but the pilot shoul have atleast got a suspension…

[QUOTE=lumpkin19;60177]The deck crew and alot of people said he ran the boat better than the captain that left so thats clearly wasnt the issue…[/QUOTE]
Yes it is… `Whether he was ‘better than the Captain’ is irrelevant. He was UNLICENSED! As Mr. Cavo stated, he had an app in with NMC to have his license issued, BUT he didn’t have it in hand, and actually he had a bad application anyway.

The idea that because of the apprentice’ mistakes somehow the Pilot should be held accountable is wrong. The WHOLE thing would not have happened IF the apprentice didn’t leave the dock, Period. Add to that the operating over 12 hours, and the extremely poor (AWO approved) DRD company oversight and record and you have an excellent example of what it wrong with having company paid, company sponsored oversight organizations in charge ( read AWO ) of our industry.

I am guessing you have had NO experience with single screw ships, and what happens when you back full huh?

Not saying the Pilot was wrong, in fact just the opposite I don’t know that I would have done any different except [I]“Maybe”[/I] sound the danger signal earlier. But Rule 17 does cover this. Inland and International read the same here.
I would not have wanted to be in his shoes that day.