NTSB determines 2021 carrier strike of oil production platform fault of poor bridge management, charting


Poor bridge resource management and a charting error are to blame for a bulk carrier hitting an oil and gas Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production platform, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The NTSB made the announcement on Tuesday following its investigation into the Jan. 7, 2021, incident.

According to the Marine Investigation Report, the dry bulk carrier Ocean Princess hit the oil and gas production platform SP-83A while operating 24 miles south of Pilottown, Louisiana. The platform was uncrewed and out-of-service. Damage to the vessel and the platform are estimated to be $1.5 million. No pollution or injuries were reported.

The Ocean Princess was reportedly drifting overnight in the Gulf of Mexico before entering New Orleans to unload grain. The master of the vessel had planned to let the 24-person crewed ship drift throughout the night with the engine on 15-minute standby to keep clear of traffic and platforms.

The master had scheduled himself and the mate on the bridge for watch to give the crew a rest period after cleaning cargo holds that day. After engaging the engine to maneuver the vessel, the master stated that he saw a dim yellow light and checked his radar. After investigation, the master and the second officer said they believed the light was coming from an oil platform 5 to 6 miles away. Instead, the light was from platform SP-83A. The vessel struck the platform roughly 10 minutes later.

The master and the second officer told NTSB investigators that they did not see SP-83A on the radar. While the platform was on the ship’s paper chart used on the bridge by the mate on watch, the platform did not appear on the electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS).

NTSB said the platform was not charted on the official electronic or paper navigation charts that provide data to the ECDIS on the Ocean Princess. But the platform did appear on the British Admiralty chart the mate on watch was using at the time of the incident. NTSB said the platform had been added to U.S. paper charts in 1990, but for an unknown reason, the platform was omitted 20 years later from two larger-scale U.S. paper charts and remained off the paper charts and electronic navigation charts for more than a decade.

Following the contact between the platform and the Ocean Princess, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) added the platform back into the paper and electronic charts.

NTSB determined the cause of the contact was poor bridge resource management and a charting error, leading to the platform not being shown on the vessel’s electronic chart display.

“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 watch standers. Technology, such as an ECDIS, can result in operator overreliance and overconfidence that degrades sound navigation practices and negatively affects situational awareness.”