Coast Guard Completes Second Day of Hearings in Port Arthur

PORT ARTHUR, Texas – The Coast Guard concluded the second day of formal hearings, Wednesday, concerning the Jan. 23, 2010, incident involving the tank vessel Eagle Otome, the Gull Arrow and the tug Dixie Vengeance. The incident resulted in more than 400,000 gallons of oil being spilled into the Sabine-Neches waterway.

Summary:

  • The Coast Guard introduced 2 exhibits (16 total exhibits to date).
  • The hearing began with a closed-door session. Later sessions were open to the public and media.
  • Captain David Borden, a Sabine 2nd pilot, testified concerning his training program, previous maritime experience and rest and preparations for making the transit. Borden stated that he did not have the conn and made no radio calls to notify other vessels the Eagle Otome was out of control.
  • Peter Chua, the Eagle Otome’s 3rd officer, testified about his training, maritime experience, duties, watch and rest. He stated that the engine order telegraph worked properly and that the vessel’s master took control of the telegraph in the final minutes before the incident.
  • Captain Lex Wimberley, master of the Dixie Vengeance, testified to his experience in the maritime industry; his watch and rest; his license and credentials; the operation of the Dixie Vengeance; the configuration of the tow; his navigation equipment on the bridge; and the events leading up to the collision with the Eagle Otome. Captain Wimberly stated that he put the vessel into astern propulsion when he heard the danger signal from the Eagle Otome. He also stated that he saw the Eagle Otome’s anchor drop, and that radio calls made to the ship were unanswered.
  • Drew Cary, the tankerman on the Dixie Vengeance, testified to his experience in the maritime industry; his watch and rest; his credentials and duties. He reported being in the galley and alerted to a problem by the general alarm. He stated that he went outside and heard the danger signal of the Dixie Vengeance, and that he heard the Dixie Vengeance engines switch to astern propulsion while the alarms were sounding.

Various media reports have circulated stating that strong winds and poor visibility contributed to the accident. The Coast Guard would like to stress that the “poor visibility” and the “strong winds” mentioned in the testimony occurred prior to the incident and were not present at the time of the incident.

The hearing is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m., Thursday.

The purpose of this investigation is to develop conclusions and recommendations that will improve vessel and waterway safety. The facts collected at this hearing along with the lead investigator’s conclusions and recommendations will be forwarded to Coast Guard Eighth District in New Orleans and Coast Guard Headquarters for approval. Once approved, the final investigative report will be made available to the public and the media. No analysis or conclusions will be presented during the hearing. The National Transportation Safety Board will generate an independent report on this incident.

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