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NTSB rejects Dredge Owner's Effort to Blame Employee for Dredge Capsizing

On January 16, 2023, the dredging vessel WB WOOD capsized near Mile Marker 85 on the Lower Mississippi River about 10 miles below New Orleans. The sole crewmember was rescued by a Good Samaritan towing vessel. An estimated 5,500 gallons of oil were released. The WB WOOD sunk, had to be picked up by a crane and was deemed a constructive total loss.

The dredge's owner, Wood Resources, attempted to blame the night leverman (sole crewmember) for the sinking. Wood hired a surveyor to opine that the capsizing of the WB WOOD was due to "operator error [that] caused multiple breaches in the hull." The surveyor's report determined that the dredge ladder "made contact with the [river] bottom in such a way that the ladder caused the sheering of the port heel pin from its weld securement," distorting the ladder under the starboard pontoon and compromising the water integrity of the dredge. A copy of the survey report that was rejected by the NTSB is provided below:

Survey 23-0015 W B WOOD Dredge Salvage PDF K Smith Survey_Redacted-Rel
Download PDF • 312KB

The NTSB rejected Wood's efforts to blame the night leverman finding instead that the capsizing was due to a lack of company requirements for crew to regularly check compartments below deck, which resulted in undetected flooding from a through-hull pipe that was missing its overboard check valve and subsequent progressive flooding from compromised watertight bulkheads.

In response to the investigation, the NTSB made the following safety recommendation:

Vessel crews should regularly check tanks and voids that are adjacent to the vessel’s hull to identify hull integrity issues (such as potential corrosion and steel wastage, and watertight integrity deficiencies) that can lead to flooding. The presence of water can indicate an issue with watertight integrity or wastage and should be addressed. Vessel operators should ensure crews have procedures for anticipating, preventing, and addressing the potential for water ingress and flooding, including establishing scheduled checks. Bilge alarms set to detect water at a low level in voids and other spaces are another means to ensure early detection.

A copy of the NTSB report can be accessed through the following link:

Please feel free to reach out at (504) 553-1435 or if you have any questions or would like to discuss.


Adam Davis Law Firm


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