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Accident Report Detail

 
Collision of Tankship Elka Apollon With Containership MSC Nederland, Houston Ship Channel

Executive Summary

The Elka Apollon, a Greek-flag tankship, was outbound on the Houston Ship Channel for Freeport, Texas, on the morning of October 29, 2011. The MSC Nederland, a Panamanian flag containership, was inbound on the same waterway to offload cargo at the Bayport Container Terminal at the western end of the Bayport Ship Channel. The pilots on the two deep draft, oceangoing vessels agreed by radio that their ships would meet and pass one another just south of the intersection of these two shipping channels.

The pilot on the inbound MSC Nederland planned to let the Elka Apollon pass before turning to port into the Bayport channel. The pilot conning the Elka Apollon ordered a series of rudder commands as the vessel transited the intersection of the two channels and approached the MSC Nederland. A towboat, the Mr. Earl, under way in the vicinity and pushing an empty barge, was exiting the Bayport channel as the Elka Apollon was passing. As the distance between the Elka Apollon and the MSC Nederland closed, the Elka Apollon crossed the centerline of the Houston Ship Channel and subsequently struck the port side of the MSC Nederland.

No injuries resulted from the collision. The impact caused structural damage to both vessels, and three damaged containers from the MSC Nederland fell onto the deck of the Elka Apollon. The collision also tore off the MSC Nederland's rescue boat and set it adrift in the waterway. Damage was estimated at $1.5 million for the Elka Apollon and $1.3 million for the MSC Nederland.


Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determines that the probable cause of the collision between the Elka Apollon and the MSC Nederland was the failure of the pilot conning the Elka Apollon to appropriately respond to changes in bank effect forces as the vessel transited the Bayport flare, causing the vessel to sheer across the channel and collide with the MSC Nederland. Contributing to the accident was the combination of the narrow waterway, bank effects at the Bayport flare, and traffic density at the time, which increased the challenges in a waterway with a limited margin for error.


Accident Location: Upper Galveston Bay , TX    
Accident Date: 10/29/2011
Accident ID: DCA12FM002

Date Adopted: 9/25/2012
NTSB Number: MAR-12-02
NTIS Number: PB2012-916402