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Old 07-16-2019, 08:42 PM   #1
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The Twilight Zone

You are underway when unnoticed by you, your anchor deploys, taking with it all the rode. You notice a change in speed but you chalk it up to the weather and keep going...all day. In a report from Professional Mariner, that's what happened when a barge dragged a 12,000 pound anchor with four shots of chain, causing over $105,000,000 damage to underwater pipe lines and power transmission lines in the Straits of Mackinac. It seems that the crew relied on the windless brake to hold the anchor and the key locking mechanisms were not fully engaged.
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Old 07-16-2019, 10:52 PM   #2
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I've never been aboard this particular vessel, but I've worked on many like it in those waters.

When we operate in open lake waters, the anchors are secured 'in gear' with the brake tightened down, and with claws attached to the chain, and with riding pawls engaged. The odds of it dropping accidentally are vanishingly small. When we're in confined waterways, mostly rivers and harbors, we run with the anchors sitting only on the brake, and maybe the pawl. This is so that we can drop them quickly in an emergency situation.

It's entirely likely that the watch simply forgot to secure the anchors after exiting the St. Marys River a few hours before.

It's also entirely likely that the watch could have been completely unaware of the anchor dropping. That's a large vessel, and the anchor windlass is over 800 feet away from the pilothouse. On my ship, I'm only 500 feet away from the windlass, and I can only just barely feel the anchor dropping, and unless I'm outside on a calm night, I likely won't hear it either. I certainly can't see it. On this vessel, being an articulated tug barge unit, there's no real solid connection between the hull of the barge and the hull of the tug, so there's no way anyone back aft would have felt anything.

Additionally, these tug barge operations generally have a reduced crew compared to ships of similar size. That's part of what makes them economically viable. The upshot is that there may not have been a single crew member aboard the barge to notice. There may only have been two people on watch, one in the pilothouse, and one in the engine room.

The anchors should definitely have been secured, and there's no good excuse for this sort of thing to happen, but it's easy to see how it could have. All in all, it's a bad day for all involved, and will likely continue to be a pretty big headache for a lot of people for a long time to come.
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Old 07-17-2019, 12:55 AM   #3
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Reminds me of two guys who decided to sail a 40’er to Hawaii. They ran in to a storm that did a lot of damage. They turned for San Francisco. As they approached the Farralon Islands the boat started to make uncontrollable turns to port. Eventually they lost all control and. Called the coast guard for a tow. The coast guard showed up and offered to tow once they had pulled in their anchor. After pulling in 400’ of rode and chain they discovered the boat no longer made uncontrollable turns to port.
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Old 07-17-2019, 01:17 PM   #4
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Looks like the chief engineer is taking the hit for the failure of the windless brake: "Based on the friction contact pattern on the upper liner, it is likely that the chief engineer and crew who replaced the top liner did not properly adjust the brake band. The brake band liner and hardware were replaced without the training, supervision or instructions to properly carry out the task and ensure appropriate adjustments." I question why an ATB would have a "chief engineer" on board rather than a DDE?
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Old 07-17-2019, 01:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ancora View Post
Looks like the chief engineer is taking the hit for the failure of the windless brake: "Based on the friction contact pattern on the upper liner, it is likely that the chief engineer and crew who replaced the top liner did not properly adjust the brake band. The brake band liner and hardware were replaced without the training, supervision or instructions to properly carry out the task and ensure appropriate adjustments." I question why an ATB would have a "chief engineer" on board rather than a DDE?

Most rigs of that size and type in that trade will have at least three engineers aboard. A Chief engineer, and two assistants. Often the assistants are DDEs. It could be slightly different, but I've never worked on a boat that wasn't required to have a Chief.
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Old 07-17-2019, 02:00 PM   #6
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In 1994, my son started out working in the "Oil Patch" on a drill rig supply boat as a DDE. He was the only engineer on board. He has since made chief with unlimited H.P. steam, diesel, and gas turbine endorsements, and ships bluewater. Can't wait to hear his comments on this report.
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