The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued its report on the collision on March 15, 2019, between two towboats, the M/V Dixie Vandal and the docked M/V Trinity towing vessel and an attached barge, which spilled a half-gallon of jet fuel into the channel and caused over $630,000 in property damage.
In the NTSB report, investigators concluded the pilot aboard the Dixie Vandal “believed he had dozed off in the seconds before striking the Trinity and was awakened by the impact.”
The report concludes that the pilot fell asleep at the wheel near the end of his 12-hour shift, while he was under the influence of an over-the-counter antihistamine. Fortunately, this time no one was injured in the collision, which received relatively little attention along the Ship Channel, having occurred in the early morning hours.
The Dixie Vandal is owned and operated by Kirby Inland Marine. Her crew told investigators they almost always worked the maximum allowable 12-hour shifts. After the incident, the company decided to switch the crew’s watches to a six-hour shift schedule, to avoid fatigue.
Federal officials said fatigue, particularly during morning hours, is the leading cause of commercial transportation crashes. A total of 10 of 14 maritime crashes investigated by the NTSB from 2014 to 2019 cited fatigue as a major factor in collisions which occurred between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., officials said.
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