The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a report into the February, 2019, accident involving the cruise ship ‘Norwegian Epic’.
Her port bow made contact with two of the mooring dolphins at San Juan Cruise Port, Pier 3 east, in Puerto Rico.
NTSB determined that the probable cause of the incident was a lack of communication and co-ordination between the master and pilot, which resulted in a poorly executed docking manoeuvre.
At the time of the incident, the vessel had an inoperable port shaft. According to both the Master and pilot, they discussed the docking manoeuvre during their initial Master/pilot exchange. The pilot told the Master on numerous occasions that they needed to head towards Pier 4, which was east of Pier 3.
As is customary with all cruise ships at San Juan, the Master docked the vessel, and the Master and pilot stated that they would use two tugs for docking.
Although the Master and the pilot discussed the use of tugs, they did not discuss how the tugs would be controlled or who would control them. The Master was only heard giving one verbal order regarding the tugs (just prior to the vessel’s contact). According to the parametric data from the VDR, there was a point in the manoeuvre when both the tugs and the thrusters were in opposition to each other’s actions, demonstrating the lack of co-ordination between the Master and the pilot, the NTSB said.
Many of the pilot’s orders to the tugs and the tug captains’ replies were in Spanish. “The pilot should have related his commands to the captain in English. The Master also used gestures instead of verbal orders. Perhaps this could have worked if the Master and pilot had agreed upon this method, but this was the first time they had worked together, and they had not previously agreed to this method of communicating tug orders,” the NTSB added.
Damage to the mooring dolphins and connecting catwalks was estimated at $3.5 mill, and damage to the vessel was estimated at $200,000. None of the 6,023 people on board were injured, and there was no reported pollution.