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Precis File
source NTSB
type D
dead 0

This casualty was nearly unique in that the USCG grabbed the Bright Field's logs before they could be sanitized. They showed that the Bright Field had had at least two major loss of power incidents in the 11 months prior to the minor loss of power that caused her to clobber the Poydras Street wharf injuring at least 62 and causing more than 20 million dollars in damage. One lasted four days and the other a little over a day. In addition, she had had numerous minor loss of power failures and forced slow-downs.

When she left Indonesia loaded with coal for New Orleans her ETA was 1996-10-26. She actually arrived at Davant 1996-11-21, nearly a month late.

During the 11 months prior to the allision, the crew had been forced to change out six cylinder liners due to cracks. They ran out of spares so they just welded up the cracks. During this period they had to pull at least 11 pistons. All this despite the the fact that most of the time they were running at reduced power.

Given all these problems is it not surprising that the lube oil became contaminated with fuel, a very dangerous situation. But the owner was slow to provide sufficient replacement lubes.

Correspondence found in the files indicated that other ships in the Cosco fleet had experienced similar problems with the Sulzer RTA62 engine.

source CTX
type C
dead 0

Extremely high profile allision. The 68,200 dwt ton bulk carrier was downbound in the Mississipi River at about Mile 95 loaded with 56,397 tons of corn, when the main engine tripped and she lost propulsion power. Even though she was operating at speed over the ground of 16 knots, she immediately lost steerage and turned to port. (The river was at high stage at the time.) The turn continued despite full starboard rudder. Power was restored less than five minutes later, but by then it was too late to keep the ship from plowing into the Poydras Street Wharf.

Miraculously, no one was killed, bu the NTSB says there were four serious and 58 minor injuries. Other sources claim higher totals.

The proximate cause was the No 1 lube oil pump was in lousy shape and putting out low pressure; the strainer was partially clogged in part due to poor maintenance and in part due to the the lube oil being contaminated with fuel. The net result was the output pressure dropped below the trip level. The No 2 lube oil pump did not start up automatically as it should have, and it took them a couple of minutes to get power back.

The NTSB inquiry revealed that the ship's machinery had been in bad condition for a long time, and that the owners (Cosco) had known about this and done little. See the disgusting chronology in Appendix C of the NTSB report. This ship was an accident waiting to happen.

Despite the fact that her Sulzer RTA62 engine had a history of major liner and piston failures, the ship was fully classed (DNV) and had passed a USCG inspection six months earlier.

Some said the ship was going too fast; but, as the experienced pilot claimed and loss of steerage proved, the ship, a very blocky, single screw, loaded bulk carrier, had to be going close to ten knots thru the water to maintain steerage.

As usual, the crew took the blame. Liberia suspended the Chief's licence even though the correspondence showed the Chief had been begging for spares and support from Sulzer for some time. And despite the fact that he and his exhausted department had had to pull 11 cylinders and change out six liners in less than a year, among numerous other non-standard repairs.

No one including the NTSB pointed out that, if the ship had been twin screw, not only would the probability of a complete loss of power been reduced by a factor of 1000 or more; but the ship could have been going much slower while still maintaining control.

In November, 2004, the Bright City entered the Mississippi and successfully passed a New Orleans USCG inspection. The Bright City is Cosco's new name for the Bright Field.