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October 21, 2010

Failure to report steamship grounding brings $5,000 penalty

A $5,000 civil penalty has been imposed on the owner of a 1959-built Great Lakes steamship for failing to report a grounding.

According to Coast Guard Sector Detroit, on June 1, 2010, the 670-foot U.S. flagged cargo ship Herbert C. Jackson [which is owned by the Interlake Steamship Company]failed to appropriately report to the Coast Guard damages resulting from the ship's running aground in the Saginaw River near Bay City, Mich.

The grounding went unreported for 121 days until an internal ballast tank survey by the crew uncovered the full extent of the damage. After the report was made to the Coast Guard, personnel from Marine Safety Unit Toledo, Ohio, completed a thorough inspection of the damage, a review of the repair plan, and an investigation into the accident.

Following the vessel's departure from Bay City June 1, the crew noticed a vibration. June 23, divers were hired to inspect the propeller. The Coast Guard became aware of the grounding in late September, when the freighter's crew members were doing a routine cleaning of the ship's ballast tanks, noted structural damage to the hull bottom, and notified the Coast Guard of the damage.

The vessel owner not only failed to report the marine casualty immediately to the Coast Guard, which is required by federal law, but also, says Sector Detroit, failed to notify the Coast Guard of damage and extensive repairs to the propeller caused by the grounding.

Sector Detroit notes that reportable marine casualties require immediate notification to the Coast Guard followed by a written report submitted within five days of the initial notification. Marine casualties required to be reported to the Coast Guard include: unintentional groundings, loss of propulsion or steering that reduces the maneuverability of a ship, any occurrence that affects a ship's seaworthiness, loss of life, an injury that requires professional medical treatment beyond first aid, more than $25,000 in property damage, and an occurrence involving significant harm to the environment, such as an oil spill.

Timely notification to the Coast Guard ensures that appropriate corrective actions are taken for the marine casualty, proper oversight is given for any repairs or injuries, and adequate safety measures are in place for continued operations.

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