Federal report blames ship’s navigators for Celebrity Infinity crash in Ketchikan

Dec 18, 2017

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has released the findings of last year’s crash of the cruise ship Celebrity Infinity with Berth 3 in Ketchkan, Alaska. NTSB report determined that “The probable cause of the allision with the dock was the master’s failure to plan, monitor and execute a safe docking evolution.” Report also reveals that the captain didn’t know there were tugboats available at the port. According to the vice president of a local tugboat company, all the cruise lines calling in the port of Ketchikan, except Royal Caribbean Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, had a verbal agreement with the tugboat company whereby a tugboat would be made available to assist in docking if necessary.

On June 3, 2016, due to strong gusts of wind Celebrity Infinity allided with berth 3 in Ketchikan, Alaska. No one was injured in the crash and no pollution occurred. The cruise ship sustained a nine-inch-diameter hole on the forward port side, and the berth suffered extensive damage with estimated repairs of about $1.15 million.

According to the master and pilot, the port-side-to docking maneuver went according to plan as the vessel approached berth 3. The master stated he noticed the ship “drifting a lot” and that he then advised the forward mooring station to drop the starboard anchor; he said that the wind suddenly increased from 23 to 40 knots.

The master told investigators he ordered the starboard anchor to be dropped when the vessel was about 450 meters from the dock, because he felt that the bow of the vessel was rapidly approaching the dock and the bow thrusters were unable to slow the motion of the bow. Both the master and the staff captain told investigators that the master took over the controls at this point; however, the ship’s logbook does not reflect a change of conn from the staff captain to the master.

According to the pilot, the thrusters and anchor were able to control the bow but “whatever maneuvers they made with the pods weren’t sufficient to hold the ship and it made a hard landing on the dolphins back there.” At 1355, with the after part of the vessel pivoting toward berth 3, the VDR recorded someone shouting, “the stern, the stern!” and, at 13:56, the vessel allided with the berth. The force of the allision opened a 9-inch-diameter hole in the vessel’s port side between frames 231 and 233, about 12 feet above the waterline. It also caused the deflection of vessel structural members. The berth suffered extensive damage to its catwalks and structural members. Damage to the berth and vessel was estimated at $1,153,738.

Investigators were left with the impression that a clear mental model of the docking evaluation was not shared by the entire bridge team.