February 28, 2013

Coast Guard says sinking of Maine tug human error

The Associated Press

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — The U.S. Coast Guard says the sinking of a tugboat working on a new bridge between Portsmouth, N.H., and Kittery, Maine, was due to human error.

The Coast Guard is considering an enforcement action against the operator of the tugboat Benjamin Bailey that sank on Oct. 24, while moored to a barge at the construction site of the Memorial Bridge.

Ken Anderson, co-owner of Eliot, Maine-based Riverside and Pickering Marine Construction – which operates the tugboat – said he couldn't comment because he has yet to see the report.

"We were unaware it was even done," Anderson said Thursday. "We've submitted a request for a copy of it."

No one was injured, but the tug spilled an estimated 225 gallons of diesel fuel into the Piscataqua River.

The Coast Guard's report on the sinking was obtained by Foster's Daily Democrat. The report said a lack of attention to the mooring position of the boat as the tide dropped was a primary factor in the sinking.

The captain of the tugboat did not change its mooring position as the tide dropped and currents changed in the river. The currents pushed the tugboat and it listed to its starboard side and began to take on water. Efforts by the crew of two to take corrective action and shift the tugboat's position failed. The pair jumped free of the boat as it submerged.

The tug was later raised and taken to a Maine shipyard for salvage.

The investigation also deemed the company's operating handbook to be "inadequate" because it did not address mooring arrangements and policies about working at the Memorial Bridge construction site.

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