USCG Investigation Shows ‘Human Error’ Caused Tugboat Sinking

This WMTW-TV video shows the 55-foot BENJAMIN BAILEY tugboat capsizing and sinking in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on October 21, 2012. Two crewmembers were able to escape from the vessel after it became pinned against a barge at the Memorial Bridge construction site. On February 28, Foster’s Daily Democrat reported that an analysis by the US Coast Guard (USCG) determined that human error played a role in the ship’s sinking. “Specifically, the tugboat captain failed to maneuver the ship into a new position after high tide in the morning,” Foster’s reported. “As noon approached, the current shifted, and the ship started getting rocked sideways.”

“A lack of attention to the mooring position” of the BENJAMIN BAILEY was the first factor cited in sinking analysis by the USCG. The report also stated that an attempt to use a gate line and capstan to move the bow away from the barges was “inadequate in light of the strong current.” According to Foster’s, the USCG also cited “preconditions” that contributed to the sinking, including tugboat company policies and a failure to discuss environmental factors to consider in the procedures outlined in the tugboat company’s handbook that was deemed “inadequate.”

The BENJAMIN BAILEY was eventually floated to the surface and returned to Eliot, Maine for a salvage attempt. The vessel is operated by Eliot-based Riverside and Pickering Marine Contractors, and Foster’s reported that USCG investigators referred the incident for a potential “enforcement action” against Riverside “which could come in the form of an administrative or civil penalty.”

It is certainly fortunate that the crewmembers onboard the BENJAMIN BAILEY were able to escape before the vessel sank, but you should know that injured workers and the families of deceased seamen may be entitled to damages under the Jones Act when an employer’s negligence causes injuries. Latti & Anderson LLP has obtained several multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for clients, including many crew members who have worked on tugs and been injured. Recently, Latti & Anderson LLP settled a case for $2.25 million against a tug company, McAllister Towing  for a crew member who was sustained an electrical injury.

We have additional information about tug and barge accidents available on our website. If you were hurt or a loved one was killed while working at sea, you can contact our firm at (800) 392-6072 to schedule a free consultation or fill out the form on this page to have our Jones Act lawyers review your case.

Latti & Anderson LLP – Jones Act attorneys

Latti & Anderson’s Little Extra: According to the US Army Corp of Engineers, over 70 percent of US flag tugboats are more than 25 years old.