Ship happens

Everyone has experienced on-the-water mishaps. Hopefully, when they happen, you have the insurance to cover it. Here are a few:

• Flotsam and jetsam. A large tug was towing a deck barge loaded with rebar near Tampa, Fla. In the middle of the night, the captain heard a very heavy metal scraping sound running from bow to stern, followed by an even louder bang that caused the starboard wheel to vibrate badly. He shut down the starboard engine and a relief tug had to come out and take over the tow. The tug limped back to Tampa on the port engine. It was determined that the tug probably struck a semisubmerged container. When the container hit the tug’s starboard kort nozzle, it jammed the nozzle into the wheel, causing wheel and shaft damage. The reduction gear also needed repairs. The mishap caused $155,000 in damages and much more in lost revenue.

• Asleep at the wheel. The captain of a coastal cargo ship scheduled to arrive in port about 4 a.m. called ahead and requested a pot of steaming coffee upon arrival. What an omen! The ship was on autopilot and the last heading hadn’t been deleted. The captain fell asleep and the ship hit the dock at 8 knots. Fortunately, the bow went between two vessels tied to the floats and lodged under the pier. There was heavy damage to the ship and the surrounding floats and pier, and minor damage to the two vessels tied to the floats.

• Beware of poles. A tug in New York Harbor was doing routine assist work in fairly shallow water when the crew heard a very loud thud and the tug lost one of its wheels. There was substantial damage. The telephone-pole-sized piling the tug hit was adrift and waterlogged, an accident waiting to happen. Nobody could explain it.

• Watch for ice. Early one very cold winter morning, a crew vessel loaded up and headed out of Rockland Harbor, Maine. About a half-mile out, it lost a wheel to the ice. After the boat was towed to a repair facility, it was found that ice had actually broken the propeller shaft and the wheel fell to the harbor floor. This was an expensive repair, coupled with an expensive downtime claim. The owner went to a larger shaft size and, believe it or not, lost another wheel a month later.

About the author

Gene McKeever

Gene McKeever is a marine insurance agent with Allen Insurance and Financial. He can be reached at gmckeever@allenif.com.

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