Electrical Problems Cause Steering Loss and $6 Million in Damages

Electrical Failure Leads to Loss of Steering and $6 Million in Damages

September 22, 2022

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, an electrical failure resulted in a bulk carrier losing control and colliding with a barge close to New Orleans last year, causing an estimated $6 million in damages.

On July 12, 2021, the bulk ship Jalma Topic, which was traveling upriver on the Lower Mississippi River, lost direction and collided with a stationary barge that was being used as an office. There were no reported injuries.

The rudder got locked at port 10 degrees during the cruise. The report claims that when the pilot saw the rudder wasn't working, he took quick and decisive action to make sure the occupants of the office barge were alerted to the problem and made an effort to slow down the ship as much as possible.

The barge's hull and superstructure both incurred damage. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems were harmed, along with the electrical, plumbing, and communication connections to the coast. Additionally damaged or destroyed were the mooring system, all gangways, and surrounding catwalks to the barges.

Electrical Failure Leads to Loss of Steering and $6 Million in Damages

A technician who was working on the NTSB investigation discovered that the loss of steering was brought on by the failure of a solid-state relay on the functioning steering control system servo control board. The investigation also revealed that YDK Technologies, the maker of steering control systems, had issued an important notice and caution sticker to ships with PT500 autopilot systems in December 2014 in response to the incident on the Jalma Topic.

However, the vessel's captain said that it wasn't until after the contact that they learned of the 2014 warning and caution sticker from YDK Technologies. The failure of an electrical solid-state relay on the servo control board of the operating control system to the steering gear was identified by the NTSB as the most likely reason for the Jalma Topic's collision with the office barge. The lack of precise protocols available to the bridge team to handle a loss of the steering control system also played a role.

The assessment stated that "steering control system failures can result in detrimental outcomes. Companies should analyze and spot probable steering system problems and provide bridge and engine teams with quick response techniques that are easily accessible. Teams from the bridge and engine should practice these processes using realistic scenarios to keep their competency."

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