Report concludes inexperience, panic and delays led to grounding off Canada

Montreal: A series of missteps, some key delays, a dash of panic and big slice of inexperience were the recipe that led to a bulk carrier being grounded off Newfoundland 15 months ago.

That’s the verdict in the investigative report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), released on Wednesday.

In the incident, on March 14, 2014, the John I (42,263 dwt, built 1991) came a cropper after entering icy waters southwest of Newfoundland, on its way to Montreal in Quebec.

The vessel became disabled due to flooding in the engine room. It drifted about 41 nautical miles before grounding on the Rose Blanche Shoals the following day. There were no injuries and all 23 crew members were evacuated by helicopter.

In its report the TSB said when the John I entered ice-covered waters, its sea water cooling system was not set to recirculate warmed sea water into its lower chest where it would have melted ice and slush.

The sea water strainer became plugged, and when the crew attempted to close the low sea chest valve, the disc was prevented from fully closing – probably by ice caught between the valve disc and its seat.

A vicious cycle was set in motion wherein the rate of flooding to the engine room increased.

The vessel’s master ordered a blackout so the ship began drifting. But the master did not accept initial offers to tow made by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Earl Grey, instead conferring with the Coast Guard and the company that owned the ship.

When the master finally did accept the tow, the Earl Grey failed in its first attempt to establish a towline to the stricken boat. Time ran out before a successful attempt could be made, and the boat ran aground.

The report concluded that: crew should be familiar with the ship’s sea water cooling system; and the emergency services need to be involved in a timely and co-ordinated fashion.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.

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