NTSB: Docking Errors, Insufficient Oversight Caused Cruise Ship Allision in Baltimore

This screen shot from a CCTV monitor, provided to the NTSB by the U.S. Coast Guard, shows the allision of the Carnival Pride with the pier at Cruise Maryland Terminal, South Locust Point, Baltimore Harbor, Maryland, as the elevated passenger embarkation walkway falls and crushes three vehicles parked below on the pier. Photo: NTSB
CCTV screengrab shows the allision of the Carnival Pride with the pier at Cruise Maryland Terminal, South Locust Point, Baltimore Harbor, Maryland, as the elevated passenger embarkation walkway falls and crushes three vehicles parked below on the pier. Photo: NTSB

Too much speed and too steep of an angle of approach is what led to the Carnival Pride allide with a pier in Baltimore Harbor last year, causing more than $2 million in damage, according to a National Transportation Safety Board marine accident brief released Tuesday.

No fatalities, injuries or damage to the environment were reported in connection with the incident. The Carnival Pride struck the the pier at Cruise Maryland Terminal, South Locust Point, Baltimore Harbor, Maryland on May 8, 2016. Property damage resulting from the allision was estimated at more than $2 million and involved the destruction of an elevated passenger walkway, damage to three vehicles on the pier, and damage to the Carnival Pride’s hull and observation and mooring platform.

According to the NTSB brief, the Carnival Pride’s staff captain, who was second in command, had the conn of the vessel and allowed the vessel to approach the pier too fast and at an angle too steep. Upon recognizing the situation, the staff captain attempted to shift to manual controls but was unable to assume manual control at the bridge wing station. A Maryland pilot was aboard the vessel but had transferred conn of the cruise ship to the ship’s staff captain for the final approach and docking, per an agreement between the Association of Maryland Pilots and passenger vessels berthing at the cruise ship terminal. Following the changeover, the pilot assumed an advisory role vice giving direct orders for the helm and engines.

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Chart depicts the approach to the Cruise Maryland Terminal, South Locust Point, Baltimore Harbor, Maryland, via the Patapsco River. The red star denotes the accident location and the red line shows the track of the Carnival Pride as it proceeded to the berth on May 8, 2016. NTSB graphic

“The staff captain allowed the vessel to approach the pier too fast and at an angle too steep because he misjudged the power available in the joystick mode for correcting the maneuver,” the NTSB writes in the brief. “In the seconds it took him to assess that the joystick control would not be enough, in his opinion, to slow the ship, he lost valuable time in shifting to manual control. In his haste to shift control, he was unable to assume manual control at the bridge wing station, an event the staff captain could not explain. The vessel’s operating company was not able to replicate the failed transfer of control from the joystick mode to the manual mode during testing on subsequent voyages. Thus, the company has been unable to determine a cause other than possible human error.”

The report notes that the staff captain had previous experience, under the captain’s supervision, operating the controls during berthing maneuvers.

The NTSB’s marine accident brief, Allision of Passenger Vessel Carnival Pride with Pier and Passenger Walkway, is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xXa36.