The National Transportation Safety Board determined today that the failure of Eagle Otome's first pilot to correct sheering motions that began as a result of the late initiation of a turn at a mild bend in the waterway was the probable cause of the January 23,2010, collision of the tankship Eagle Otome with cargo vessel Gull Arrow and the subsequent collision with Dixie Vengeance tow.
Contributing to the collisions, which caused an estimated 462,000 gallons of oil to spill into the Sabine-Neches canal, was the first pilot's fatigue, caused by his untreated obstructive sleep apnea and his work schedule, which did not permit time for adequate sleep; and his distraction from conducting a radio call, which the second pilot should have handled in accordance with guidelines; and the lack of effective bridge resource management by both pilots. Also contributing to the accident was lack of oversight by the Jefferson and Orange County Board of Pilot Commissioners.
"The NTSB has long been concerned about fatigue in the marine industry, and this accident highlights the very real consequences of degraded performance," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "Additionally, guidelines for operating in this tricky stretch of waterway were established 30 years ago to increase the margin of safety and offset human error, but unfortunately, in this accident, they were not followed."
As a result of this accident, the NTSB issued 10 new safety recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Jefferson and Orange County Board of Pilot Commissioners, the Sabine Pilots Association, the governors of states and territories in which state and local pilots operate, and the American Pilots' Association. The Safety Board also reiterated a previously issued recommendation to the U.S. Coast Guard.
A synopsis of the NTSB report, including the probable cause, findings, and a complete list of the safety recommendations, is available on the NTSB's website. The NTSB's full report will be available on the website in several weeks.