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A Barge Pilot Fell Asleep At The Wheel, Colliding Into Another Ship

A sleepy barge pilot is being blamed for a collision that happened along the Houston Ship Channel last year.

The Houston Chronicle cited a report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The crash happened on March 15, 2019, when the Dixie Vandal collided with the Trinity. The Dixie Vandal was carrying a barge, and the Trinity was docked at the time.  The incident caused the spillage of a half-gallon of jet fuel into the channel and an estimated $630,000 in damages.

The barge pilot, who had worked a 12-hour shift before the crash, fell asleep at the wheel.  The NTSB also concluded that the pilot had taken an over the counter antihistamine for his allergies.  He had been a pilot on board the Dixie Vandal for approximately two years.  

According to the NTSB report, the pilot was on his 10th day of a 20-day rotation of 12 hours on duty and 12 hours off shift.  This had been the schedule for one and a half to two years for the pilot who was at the wheel at the time, another pilot, the captain of the vessel, and three tanker personnel.

A spokesperson for the company which owns the Dixie Vandal said that since the accident, shifts had been moved onto a 6-hours-on, 6-hours-off schedule. In future, shifts for all workers are not to exceed 12 hours on duty at any time.  

The time management system for company vessels is computerized and is monitored by the captain of the ship.  It is reviewed by a company representative if there is ever an accident or near-miss.

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