NTSB publishes preliminary report on Seacor Power capsizing

EMERGENCY SERVICES WEEK
Photo: US Coast Guard

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its preliminary report into the fatal capsizing incident involving the US-flagged liftboat Seacor Power a month prior.

At about 15:41 local time on April 13, 2021, the 175-foot (53-metre) liftboat Seacor Power capsized off the coast of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Nineteen personnel were aboard the vessel, including nine crew, two galley staff, and eight offshore workers.

Vessels in the area reported heavy rain, winds exceeding 80 knots, and building seas at the time of the accident.

Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were hampered by 30–40-knot winds and 10- to 12-foot (three- to 3.6-metre) seas that persisted throughout the evening and into the next day.

Six personnel were rescued by the US Coast Guard and Good Samaritan vessels, and the bodies of six fatally injured personnel were recovered. Seven personnel remain missing.

About 13:30 on the accident day, Seacor Power departed Port Fourchon bound for “Main Pass Block 138,” an oil and gas lease area in the Gulf of Mexico east of the Mississippi Delta. The voyage was expected to take 18 hours at a vessel speed of about four knots.

Prior to getting under way, equipment to be used by the offshore workers was loaded onto Seacor Power‘s main deck. A weather report emailed to the vessel at 07:02 that morning predicted afternoon winds at nine to 12 knots from the southeast, with three-foot (one-metre) seas.

About 15:30, a rain squall passed over the vessel as it transited the open waters of the gulf. Visibility dropped and the winds increased significantly, so the crew decided to lower the liftboat’s legs to the seafloor to hold the vessel in position until the storm passed.

When the legs began to descend, the crewmember at the helm attempted to turn the vessel into the winds. Before the turn was completed, the vessel heeled to starboard and capsized.

Several personnel were able to escape out onto the exposed port side of the vessel’s deckhouse.

Good Samaritan vessels in the area, as well as a US Coast Guard cutter in pre-commissioned status, responded to the stricken vessel’s location. Coast guard response boats, a civilian helicopter, and coast guard fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft joined in rescue efforts, but high winds and seas that had built to 10–12 feet prevented them from reaching the personnel remaining on the liftboat.

Some who had been clinging to the vessel were washed into the water, and six were eventually rescued. One survivor suffered a serious injury.

The coast guard declared the accident a major marine casualty on April 14, and the next day, the NTSB launched a full team to the area. While on-scene, investigators collected documentation and interviewed survivors, other personnel who had crewed the vessel, owner and charterer representatives, vessel inspectors and surveyors, and search and rescue responders.

Investigators intend to return to the scene when the liftboat is salvaged to inspect the vessel and collect further evidence.

The NTSB is the lead federal agency for the safety investigation. The coast guard, Seacor Marine, the National Weather Service, and the American Bureau of Shipping have been named parties to the NTSB investigation.

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