MAY 25, 2012—The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently concluded that the probable cause of a loss of propulsion control of a Staten Island Ferry two years ago was the failure of a solenoid. The accident involving the Andrew J. Barberi resulted in the ferry alliding with a pier, injuring three passengers seriously and another 47 passengers and crew reporting minor injuries. The damage to the vessel and terminal was more than $182,000.
In the wake of its investigation into the accident, the NTSB has now made several safety recommendations in a recent letter to U.S. Coast Guard Commandant ADM Robert Papp. One is the requirement is that newly built U.S.-flag passenger vessels with controllable pitch propulsion, including cycloidal propulsion, should be equipped with alarms that audibly and visually alert the operator to deviations between the operator's propulsion and steering commands and the actual propeller response.
NTSB also says that “where technically feasible,” these same systems should be retrofitted on existing U.S.-flag passenger vessels. NTSB would also like the Coast Guard to require all U.S.-flag passenger vessel operators to implement safety management systems, taking into account the characteristics, methods of operation, and nature of service of these vessels, and, with respect to ferries, the sizes of the ferry systems within which the vessels operate.
The NTSB also reiterated two earlier recommendations it made to the U.S. Coast Guard. Require installation of voyage data recorders (VDR) that meet the international performance standard on new ferry vessels. Require installation of VDRs on ferry vessels built before the enactment of voyage data recorder carriage requirements that will record, at a minimum, the same video, audio, and parametric data specified in IMO's performance standard for simplified voyage data recorders.