Engine failure led to 2016 Columbia ship grounding

The Nenita, a bulk carrier laden with soybeans, ran aground near Skamokawa, Washington, in November 2016. The cause of the grounding was determined to be engine failure.

The bulk carrier Nenita that grounded in the Columbia River Near Skamokawa, Washington, in November 2016 suffered an engine failure stemming from improperly secured bolts, according to an accident report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Nenita, flagged in the Marshall Islands, left the Port of Kalama laden with soybeans. A fracture in the main engine cylinder cooling jacket caused the ship to slow down. The fracture was related to improper torque on several bolts on the cylinder.

“The reduced speed resulted in reduced maneuverability,” the report said. “Steering was greatly affected, and despite the pilot’s use of heavy rudder orders to maintain course, he was unable to keep the ship in the channel and it eventually grounded.”

The Nenita took on water before the crew found the break in the forward peak and stopped the flooding. The vessel was refloated, inspected and ordered by the Coast Guard to Kalama.

Ships transiting along the river must carry a Columbia River Pilot knowledgeable of the shipping channel. The safety board also found a lack of information relayed from the ship’s engine crew to the pilot during the 15 minutes between the engine failure and grounding, preventing him from taking effective corrective action following the fracture.

“If he knew the vessel was not going to quickly regain propulsion, he would have had more time to identify an anchoring location or attempt a softer-bottom grounding,” the report said. “Without this information, the pilot maintained his position in the channel in the hopes of regaining engine speed. Consequently, the ship lost (steerage) and grounded.”

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