Posted on June 11, 2018 by Ashleigh Cowie
Video emerges of the fire on board the Aframax River tanker. The pilots received bravery awards for managing to bring the ship to safety and avert a major maritime tragedy.
The 247 meters-long vessel broke down in Houston Shipping Channel and caught fire after colliding with mooring dolphins.
Pilots, Captain Michael G. McGee and Captain Michael C. Phillips were awarded the 2017 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.
The video shows the wall of fire that surrounded the men and threatened to spread across other tank vessels.
McGee manoeuvred the blazing vessel away from surrounding ships, while Phillips coordinated communications and firefighting efforts in unison with the U.S. Coast Guard. The men remained on the vessel fighting the blaze for 90 minutes, before they were able to use tugs to bring the damaged tanker safely to a mooring facility.
The men were nominated for the award by the International Maritime Pilots' Association (IMPA). When presented with the award, Phillips said:
"It's also not something that we train for or practice. Frankly, we didn't have a lot of time to think about what we needed to do. We just did it.
“We’d like to think, however, that we did what we did in large measure because we’re state pilots. We’re used to taking control when we climb aboard a ship. Pilots don’t sit back and wait for others to tell them what to do. We also feel a deep responsibility for protecting our port. We are proud to be state commissioned pilots and proud of what state pilots do in safeguarding their respective ports. In that respect, we accept this award on behalf of our fellow pilots in Houston and everywhere else in the world.”
An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause of the fire was the collision and a subsequent abnormality of the tanker's main engine governor actuator system in responding to command inputs from the bridge.