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

An electrical failure caused a bulk carrier to lose of steering and crash into a barge near New Orleans last year, resulting in an estimated $6 million in damages, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.

The bulk carrier Jalma Topic was transiting upriver on the Lower Mississippi River on July 12, 2021 During the voyage, the rudder became stuck at port 10 degrees.

The barge sustained damages to its superstructure and hull. Electrical, plumbing and communication connections to the shore were severed, and the heating ventilation and air conditioning systems were damaged.

The mooring system and all gangways and surrounding catwalks to the barges were also either damaged or destroyed.

(Plotted positions of the Jalma Topic taken from the vessel’s VDR depicting the course of the vessel until it struck the corner of the office barge. Background source: Google Maps)

During the NTSB’s investigation, a technician found that a solid-state relay on the operating steering control system servo control board had failed, causing the loss of steering.

“Failures in steering control systems can result in damaging consequences,” the report said. “Companies should review and identify potential steering system failures and make quick response procedures readily available to bridge and engine teams.

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