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On Saturday, January 23, 2010, about 0935 central standard time, the 810-foot-long oil tankship Eagle Otome collided with the 597-foot-long general cargo vessel Gull Arrow at the Port of Port Arthur, Texas. A 297-foot-long barge, the Kirby 30406, which was being pushed by the towboat Dixie Vengeance, subsequently collided with the Eagle Otome. The tankship was inbound in the Sabine-Neches Canal with a load of crude oil en route to an ExxonMobil facility in Beaumont, Texas. Two pilots were on board, as called for by local waterway protocol. When the Eagle Otome approached the Port of Port Arthur, it experienced several unintended heading diversions culminating in the Eagle Otome striking the Gull Arrow, which was berthed at the port unloading cargo. A short distance upriver from the collision site, the Dixie Vengeance was outbound with two barges. The towboat master saw the Eagle Otome move toward his side of the canal, and he put his engines full astern but could not avoid the subsequent collision. The Kirby 30406, which was the forward barge pushed by the Dixie Vengeance, collided with the Eagle Otome and breached the tankship’s starboard ballast tank and the No. 1 center cargo tank a few feet above the waterline. As a result of the breach, 862,344 gallons of oil were released from the cargo tank, and an estimated 462,000 gallons of that amount spilled into the water. The three vessels remained together in the center of the canal while pollution response procedures were initiated. No crewmember on board any of the three vessels was injured. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determines that the probable cause of the collision of tankship Eagle Otome with cargo vessel Gull Arrow and the subsequent collision with the Dixie Vengeance tow was the failure of the first pilot, who had navigational control of the Eagle Otome, to correct the sheering motions that began as a result of the late initiation of a turn at a mild bend in the waterway. Contributing to the accident was the first pilot’s fatigue, caused by his untreated obstructive sleep apnea and his work schedule, which did not permit adequate sleep; his distraction from conducting a radio call, which the second pilot should have conducted in accordance with guidelines; and the lack of effective bridge resource management by both pilots. Also contributing was the lack of oversight by the Jefferson and Orange County Board of Pilot Commissioners.
TO THE SABINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION: Take action to ensure that your member pilots follow your guidelines with respect to division of duties and responsibilities of pilots.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Unacceptable Action
Port Arthur, TX, United States
Collision of Tankship Eagle Otome with Cargo Vessel
and Subsequent Collision with the
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
Sabine Pilots (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Safety Recommendation History
We are disappointed that the association “emphatically disagrees” with the findings of our investigation into the 2010 Eagle Otome accident and that the association believes the issuance of this recommendation illustrates a misunderstanding of the relationship between pilot associations and individual member pilots. If your position is that the association cannot control or otherwise direct its member pilots in the performance of their pilotage duties without assuming vicarious liability for the individual pilot’s actions, we question why the association issued Guidelines Governing Aboard Vessels Requiring Two Pilots When Transiting the Sabine-Neches Waterway. We are perplexed as to why the association would issue guidelines that it had no authority or intent to enforce. Nevertheless, as the association has stated it will not act to ensure that its pilots follow its own published guidelines, Safety Recommendation M 11 18 is classified CLOSED--UNACCEPTABLE ACTION.
-From Captain Mark Taylor, Chairman, Sabine Pilots Association: Reference is made to National Transportation Safety Board Accident Report PB2-ll-916404 (hereinafter "the Accident Report") and accompanying Safety Recommendation M-11-18 (hereinafter "Recommendation M-11-18") relating to the allision of the tankship EAGLEOTOME with the cargo vessel GULL ARROW and the subsequent collision with the DIXIE VENGEANCE and its tow, which occurred in the Sabine-Neches Ship Channel in or about Port Arthur, Texas on January 23, 2010. The Sabine Pilots Association (hereinafter "the Association") submits the following response to Recommendation M-11-18. As a preliminary matter, the Association would state that it emphatically disagrees with the findings contained in the Accident Report for the same reasons set forth in the American Pilot Association's December 20, 2011 Response to NTSB Safety Recommendation M-11-22 ("the APA Response"). The NTSB's findings are not supported by (and are in fact contrary to) the evidence introduced during the Coast Guard hearings and the investigation conducted by the Jefferson and Orange County Board of Pilot Commissioners Incident Review Committee. The Association also disagrees with Recommendation M-11-18, which requests the Association to [t]ake action to ensure that [its] member pilots follow [its] guidelines with respect to division of duties and responsibilities of pilots. However, in issuing Recommendation M-11-18, the NTSB has illustrated its fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between pilot associations and the individual member pilots who provide their services to directly to the vessels as independent contractors. Put simply, the Association cannot control or otherwise direct its member pilots in the performance of their pilotage duties without assuming vicarious liability for the individual pilot's actions under the U.S. Supreme Court precedent of Guy v. Donald, 203 J.S. 399, 27 S.Ct. 63, 511.Ed. 245 (1906), and its progeny.2 In other words, the Association cannot "(t]ake action to ensure that [its] member pilots follow [its] guidelines with respect to division of duties and responsibilities of pilots," because to do so would potentially impute liability for each independent pilot's actions to the Association in the event a marine casualty occurs in which the pilot's negligence becomes at issue. Respectfully, the Association will not risk assuming this potential liability by agreeing to implement Recommendation M-11-18 as requested by the NTSB. Notwithstanding its strong disagreement with the NTSB's findings and its inability to comply with Recommendation M-11-18 without waiving the protections afforded it under Guy v. Donald, siJpra, the Association remains committed to preserving and enhancing waterway safety. While each individual pilot is an independent contractor not subject to the control or oversight of the Association in any way, the Association has initiated the development of guidelines for pilotage operations conducted aboard vessels that require two pilots when transiting the Sabine-Neches Waterway. These guidelines, which were developed in cooperation with the Jefferson and Orange County Board of Pilot Commissioners, suggest a general allocation of responsibilities between the conning and off-con pilots, while also preserving the individual pilot's ability to exercise his or her own independent judgment, discretion and professional expertise when making navigational decisions during any particular vessel transit. In addition to implementing the above-referenced two-pilot guidelines, the Association has also revised its existing rest period policy.3 The revised policy, which is designed to ensure that all member pilots receive adequate rest before being assigned to their next job, takes into account the fact that traffic volume and patterns have increased significantly since the original policy was effectuated. Moreover, as with the Association's original rest period policy, the refined policy requires the Association's dispatchers to strictly observe the rest period requirements when dispatching the pilots to their individual work assignments. Finally, the Association has refined its apprentice and deputy pilot training program, which is designed to train the apprentice and deputy branch pilots so that they may eventually transition to the level of full branch pilots. The mission statement of this refined training program recognizes that marine safety is of the utmost concern and importance to the area's marine industry, the Golden Triangle community and the State of Texas at large. The program has very specific requirements for the apprentice pilot program, including the appointment of a sponsoring pilot to oversee the apprentice pilot's development, a required number of transits under the supervision of a branch pilot, extensive simulator training, and numerous written and oral examinations relating to seamanship as well as the characteristics of the specific local waterways upon which the apprentice pilot will eventually operate. Through the implementation of its refined apprentice and deputy pilot training program, the Association remains committed to improving safety and efficiency on the area waterways. The Association prides itself on the safety records of its member pilots, who provide exemplary pilotage services in one of the busiest and most challenging waterways in the nation. Rest assured that the Association will continue in its efforts to maintain its exceptional safety record while still providing efficient pilotage services to its many customers. In the meantime, the Association now considers this matter involving the EAGLE OTOME closed. Should you have any questions concerning the foregoing, please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned.
On January 24, 2012, Captain Duane Bennett, then president of the association, advised the NTSB that, although the association will not meet our request for a reply within 90 days addressing actions taken or intended, it was working to provide the NTSB a comprehensive response to Safety Recommendation M-11-18. It has been more than a year now since this recommendation was issued, and we have received no further information to date regarding the association’s actions to address it. Accordingly, we would appreciate receiving a reply regarding any actions that you have either taken or planned to address this important safety issue. We are interested in knowing whether and how our recommendations are implemented, both to ensure the public the highest level of safety and to identify creative solutions that can be shared with others. Copies of our November 4, 2011, letter issuing Safety Recommendation M-11-5 and our following correspondence are enclosed for your convenience. The full NTSB report of the Tankship Eagle Otome Collision with the General Cargo Vessel Gull Arrow and the Tank Barge Kirby 30406, accident investigation (Report Number MAR-11-04) is available on our website at www.ntsb.gov.
We note that, although the association will not meet our request for a reply within 90 days addressing actions taken or intended, it is working to provide the NTSB a comprehensive response to Safety Recommendation M-11-18. Accordingly, pending receipt of a substantive reply, this recommendation remains classified OPEN—AWAIT RESPONSE. We request that the association expedite its efforts to address this issue, and we look forward to receiving your response. Thank you for your commitment to marine safety.
-From Captain Duane A. Bennett, Chairman, Sabine Pilots Association: Reference is made to the above Safety Recommendation involving the allision of the tankship EAGLE OTOME with the cargo vessel GULL ARROW and subsequent collision with the DIXIE VENGENCE and its tow in the Sabine-Neches Ship Channel in or about Port Arthur, Texas on January 23, 2010. The Sabine Pilots Association (the "Association") has comments regarding Safety Recommendation M-11-18 and is in the process of preparing a formal response to that portion of the Safety Recommendation which was directed to the Association on or about November 4, 2011; however, we will not be in a position to submit that response to the NTSB within the 90 day period as requested by the NTSB. The Association will have its formal response to the NTSB in the near future. In the meantime, as always, please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned with any questions.
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