Bridge Collapse Hearings: Day Three

Apr 18, 2012

Hearings continue today in the US Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the late January allision of the cargo ship Delta Mariner into the Eggners Ferry Bridge.

Investigators began the day  questioning officials from Foss Maritime, owner of the Delta Mariner. They heard first from Senior Vice President of Operations for Foss Maritime Scott Merritt. NTSB spokesman Dr. Barry Strauch asked him about the role of pilot advisors on the water. Merritt says the advisor is there to provide local expertise on specific waterways.

But Dr. Strauch expressed concern that these advisors don’t have written contracts explaining their responsibilities, and that only one advisor is used for a large expanse of water. Dr. Strauch also questioned Delta Mariner General Manager Bobby Pepper about what equipment is used when navigating underneath a bridge.

Pepper says electronic equipment, manned spotlights, and physical indicators like lights and buoys are used to check the ship's position.  He says there should have been some indication as to how far out of the channel the ship was.

The afternoon  investigators from both the Coast Guard and National Transportation and Safety Board say there should be a specific job safety analysis for the cargo ship, the Delta Mariner’s transit under bridges.

Federal officials questioned both Foss Maritime VP of Operations Scott Merritt and Delta Mariner General Manager Bobby Pepper about the lack of such an analysis. Coast Guard and NTSB officials are investigating the cause of a January crash that collapsed a 300 foot span of the Eggners Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake.

Officials had pointed out the ship has on record a specific analysis for many aspects of operation, but even though the ship was designed for a specific route encompassing the Tennessee River, no special attention is given to bridge transit. After questioning from the Coast Guard, Mr. Pepper agreed there should have been a specific analysis for bridge transit. The hearings are ongoing his afternoon and will resume tomorrow.