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Poor bridge resource management and charting error led to the striking of an oil and gas production platform

30 August 2022

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said that poor bridge resource management and a charting error led to a bulk carrier striking an oil and gas production platform in the Gulf of Mexico in January 2021.

Image: NTSB
Image: NTSB

In Marine Investigation Report 22/18 released on August 30, the NTSB says that on 7 January 2021, the dry bulk carrier Ocean Princess struck the uncrewed/out-of-service oil and gas production platform SP-83A while operating 24 miles south of Pilottown, Louisiana. No pollution or injuries were reported. Damage to the vessel and platform totalled an estimated $1.5 million (£1.28m).

The 24-person crew of the Ocean Princess was drifting overnight in the Gulf of Mexico before going to New Orleans to load a cargo of grain. The master planned to drift throughout the night with the engine on 15-minute standby, keeping clear of traffic and platforms. To give the crewmembers rest time after cleaning cargo holds during the day, the master scheduled himself to be on the bridge with the mate on watch, supplementing the watch and the duties of the lookout. After engaging the engine to manoeuvre the vessel, the master stated he saw a dim yellow light and checked the radar. The master and the second officer on watch investigated the light and believed it was coming from an oil platform 5-6 miles away. Roughly 10 minutes later, the Ocean Princess struck platform SP-83A.

The master and second officer told NTSB investigators they never saw SP-83A on the radar. After the contact, both noted that the platform was on the paper chart used on the bridge by the mate on the watch, but SP-83A did not appear on the electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS). 

Platform SP-83A was not charted on the official US electronic or paper navigation charts that provided the chart data to the ECDIS aboard the Ocean Princess. The platform did appear on the British Admiralty paper chart that the mate on watch was using at the time of the contact. The platform had been added to the US paper charts when installed in 1990, but for an unknown reason was omitted 20 years later, in 2010, from two larger-scale U.S. paper charts. It remained off the two paper charts and electronic navigation charts (ENCs) for over 11 years – until after the contact. Following the contact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) updated and corrected the electronic and paper charts that had been erroneously missing platform SP-83A.

The NTSB determined the probable cause of the contact of the Ocean Princess with platform SP-83A was poor bridge resource management, which resulted in the bridge team not identifying the platform and recognising the risk it posed to their safe navigation even though they saw its lights about 10 minutes before the casualty. Contributing was platform SP-83A not being shown on the vessel’s electronic chart display and information system due to a charting error.

“The effective use of all available resources by a bridge team, including paper charts, electronic charts, and radars, increases collective situational awareness and contributes to a safe navigation watch,” the report said. “When identifying hazards, bridge teams should avoid overreliance on a single data source by cross-checking information with available bridge resources and communicating identified risks with fellow watchstanders. Technology, such as an ECDIS, can result in operator overreliance and overconfidence that degrades sound navigation practices and negatively affects situational awareness.”

Marine Investigation Report 22/18 is available online by clicking here.

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