NTSB: Faulty valve critical in S.I. ferry accident

Written by Marine Log Staff

siferryAlmost two years ago, the Staten Island ferry Andrew J. Barberi lost propulsion control in one of its two cycloidal propellers because of a failed solenoid valve in a control panel, causing the vessel to strike the ferry terminal, according to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The accident on May 8, 2010 resulted in three passengers being seriously injured and others reporting minor injuries. A total of 266 persons, including 244 passengers, were on board the vessel.

The crewmembers on board the Andrew J. Barberi were unaware that the propeller failed to respond to their commands until seconds before the ferry struck the terminal.
The Andrew J. Barberi, which has the largest capacity of any coastal passenger vessel in the U.S. at nearly 6,000 passengers, was not equipped with or required to have an alarm to alert the pilothouse crewmembers to the loss of propulsion control. This type of alarm would have given the crew additional time to respond.

As a result, the NTSB recommends that U.S. passenger vessels with controllable pitch propulsion, including cycloidal propulsion be equipped with alarms that audibly and visually alert operators when the propeller fails to respond to commands.

The Andrew J. Barberi was also involved in an accident in 2003, in which 11 people died and 70 people were injured. Subsequent to that accident and in response to NTSB safety recommendations, New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) Ferry Division implemented a safety management system (SMS) and trained its personnel in it.

A SMS in the marine industry is a structured and documented system developed to enhance safe vessel operation, ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, prevent injury or loss of life, and avoid environmental pollution.

“The bad news is that the Barberi experienced an unanticipated and unusual failure in its propulsion system,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “The good news is that no lives were lost and our investigation showed positive safety improvements following the 2003 accident, in particular the NYC DOT Ferry Division implemented an industry-leading safety management system.”

The NTSB recommends that all U.S.-flag passenger vessels implement safety management systems.

April 24, 2012

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