Turning the liftboat Seacor Power into the wind during a squall while the vessel’s legs were lowering couldn’t keep the boat from capsizing on April 13, 2021, according to a National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report published Tuesday. The Seacor Power wreckage lies about eight miles off the coast of Port Fourchon, La. The liftboat is owned by Seacor Marine.
“Information in the report is preliminary and subject to change as the investigation progresses and as such, no conclusions about the cause of the accident should be drawn from the report,” an NTSB statement warned.
There were 19 people aboard the U.S.-flagged, 175' Seacor Power, at the time of the accident; six people were rescued by the Coast Guard and Good Samaritan vessels, six people died in the accident and seven remain missing.
The Seacor Power left Port Fourchon at about 1:30 p.m. April 13, bound for the oil and gas lease area Main Pass Block 138 in the Gulf of Mexico. A weather report emailed to the vessel at 7:02 a.m. that day predicted afternoon winds at 9 to 12 knots from the southeast with 3' seas.
NTSB investigators learned that at about 3:30 p.m., as the Seacor Power transited the open waters of the Gulf, a squall passed over the liftboat. With visibility dropping and winds increasing significantly, the crew decided to lower the liftboat’s legs to the seafloor to hold the vessel in position until the storm passed. The crewmember at the helm attempted to turn the Seacor Power into the wind as the legs began to descend. Before the turn was completed, the liftboat heeled to starboard and capsized.
NTSB investigators also learned several people were able to escape onto the exposed, port side of the deckhouse. High winds and seas that had built to 10' to 12' prevented rescuers from reaching those who remained on the liftboat. Some were washed into the water and six were eventually rescued, with one survivor suffering a serious injury.
NTSB investigators have interviewed survivors, other personnel who previously crewed the Seacor Power, representatives for the owner and charterer, vessel inspectors and surveyors, and search and rescue responders.
When the Seacor Power is salvaged NTSB investigators intend to return to inspect the vessel and collect further evidence.
Salvage crews have removed the diesel fuel from the boat. Salvage operations are still ongoing.
Weather is key to a safe evolution, and if weather conditions exceed approximately 15 mph winds, four-foot seas, and the current is faster than 1.25 mph, work will cease until there are safer conditions.
The 265-class Seacor Power is a three-legged liftboat with a 49'x29'x5' working pad. It has a cargo deck capacity of 491 LT and a clear area of 11,000 sq. ft. It is outfitted with two cranes, port and starboard, each 185-ton capacity with 120' boom.