Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tugboat Was Warned Before Collision

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The pilot of a tanker involved in an accident that spilled thousands of gallons of fuel into the Mississippi River repeatedly warned a tugboat to get out of the way before they collided, but no one responded, according to radio transmissions released on Saturday by the Coast Guard. The July 23 wreck shut down part of the nation’s busiest waterway for days. The recordings and radar from that day show that the tugboat, the Mel Oliver, which was pushing a barge carrying fuel, crossed in front of the tanker, the Tintamara. “Mel Oliver, come in cap, you’re crossing the bottom of a ship coming at you,” a Coast Guard traffic controller says on the recording. As the pilot of the tanker became increasingly distressed, he repeatedly called out to the Mel Oliver. Also on Saturday, the Coast Guard released the results of its preliminary investigation. It found that the person operating the Mel Oliver had an apprentice mate’s license and that no one aboard had the proper documentation to guide it. The captain and the steersman apprentice of the tug and the pilot of the tanker have been summoned to a hearing in New Orleans on Aug. 12.