Navigational "rules of the road" implicated

News: Two Missing After Boat-Barge Collide (NECN)navigational rules of the road barges collide

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the collision of a Ride the Ducks tour boat and a city-owned barge that injured eight people and killed two.  The incident occurred on the Delaware River near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 8, 2010.

According to the Associated Press, The Caribbean Sea, a tugboat owned by K-Sea Transportation Partners of East Brunswick, New Jersey, was directing the barge downriver on Wednesday afternoon.  At the same time, the Duck boat, carrying thirty-five passengers and two crew members, sat idly in the water, due to an engine fire, for about ten minutes before the collision.  All but two passengers survived.  The Coast Guard and NTSB are investigating the crews’ conduct before and after the collision, particularly, the Duck boat’s inspection history and the apparent mechanical problems.

CNN News Wire reported that searchers located the sunken boat about fifty feet below the river’s surface.  The investigation will continue in order to discover the reason for this incident; various causes should be explored including the failure of Ride the Ducks tours to provide a seaworthy vessel and the negligence of the K-Sea tugboat/barge operators.

. . . Various Navigational “Rules of the Road” Implicated.

Although the NTSB and media sources have focused primarily on the seaworthiness of the Duck boat (citing possible lack of maintenance, etc.), rare is the case that two vessels collide and there is not a reasonable argument that both vessels were at fault.

Assuming the Duck boat was disabled and adrift for about ten minutes prior to the collision (as reported), it seems likely that the barge/tugboat, operated by K-Sea Transportation Partners, violated several Inland Rules of Navigation intended to prevent collisions, including, among others:

The U.S. Coast Guard will be conducting an extensive investigation, which I assume will include a visibility analysis, to determine how the pilot/operator of the K-Sea Towing tugboat and barge (“The Resource”), failed to avoid colliding with the disabled Duck boat.