NTSB Investigation: Lack of hull inspection leads to sinking of crane barge Ambition

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued an investigation report regarding the capsizing and sinking of crane barge Ambition that was towed by Karen Koby.

The incident 

On June 15, 2022, about 0400 local time, the towing vessel Karen Koby was towing the crane barge Ambition when the barge capsized and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, about 48 miles southeast of Cameron, Louisiana. 1 There were no persons on the barge, and none of the Karen Koby’s four crew were injured. The Ambition was partly submerged in about 54 feet of water, where it was later salvaged. The sunken barge released an estimated 1,980 gallons of oil. The Ambition and its crane were determined to be a total loss, with damages estimated at $6.3 million.

Probable cause 

NTSB determined that the probable cause of the capsizing and sinking of the crane barge Ambition was the barge owner’sλ and maintenance, and not conducting permanent repairs, which resulted in the failure of the hull and subsequent flooding.

Contributing was likely downflooding through an open deck hatch due to the tow operator’s failure to ensure adherence to its procedures for barge watertight integrity before getting underway, despite being aware of deficiencies with the watertight integrity of the barge.​​

Lessons Learned

​​Effective Hull Inspection and Maintenance

To protect vessels and the environment, it is good marine practice for vessel owners to conduct regular oversight and maintenance of hulls, including between drydock periods.

An effective maintenance and hull inspection program should proactively address potential steel wastage, identify hull and watertight integrity deficiencies, and ensure corrosion issues are repaired in a timely manner by permanent means.  ​