More attention should be paid to the possible involvement of cellphones as a contributor to maritime accidents says the US National Transportation Safety Board as it releases the results of its investigation into the collision between an anchored DUKW 34 and a tug-towed barge on the Delaware river with the loss of two lives. Implicit in the report is the importance of seafarers understanding how personal stresses create distraction and poor decision making.
In this case, the mate of the tug Caribbean Sea, which was towing the sludge barge The Resource, was attempting to deal with a family medical emergency using a cellphone and a company laptop, contrary to company policy. He was situated in the lower wheelhouse of the tug, with restricted visibility. He could not, therefore, keep a proper lookout or effectively monitor the radio.
Says the NTSB: “Had the mate of the Caribbean Sea informed the master or K-Sea Transportation management of the serious family medical emergency, he would likely have been granted relief from the watch”.
However, a proper lookout was also absent from the Ride The Ducks International’s DUKW 34 because the deckhand on the bow was texting on his cellphone.