Bulk Carrier Cape Apricot Takes Out Largest Berth at North America’s Largest Coal Exporter

At around 1 AM on Friday morning, the Cape Apricot, a cape-sized bulk carrier, chartered to K Line, smashed through a coal conveyor serving the largest of two berths at Westshore Terminals in Vancouver, Canada.  An undetermined amount of coal was spilled into Georgia Strait.  Westshore Terminals is North America’s largest coal exporting port facility.  The bulk carrier took out approximately 100 meters of the conveyor, the causeway, water pipes, electrical lines and an adjacent road.

Ship crashes into dock at Westshore Terminals, spilling coal into water

The mishap has put the berth out of service for an indefinite period of time, affected the port’s ability to export coal, disrupted customer deliveries and caused a yet-to-be-determined effect on the waters off the Fraser delta.

The loss of the berth, which handles ships with a cargo capacity up to 260,000 tonnes, is a significant blow to Westshore, which is North America’s largest coal exporting port. Westshore has one remaining berth, which can handle ships with a capacity of 180,000 tonnes.

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11 Responses to Bulk Carrier Cape Apricot Takes Out Largest Berth at North America’s Largest Coal Exporter

  1. Louis Cohen says:

    I met a BC harbor pilot recently. He said that the bulk carriers were the toughest to handle. They are underpowered (ie designed to be at sea moving slowly) and require lots of tug assistance and careful maneuvering. I wonder that the tugs couldn’t keep the vessel away from the structure if the ship lost steering or power.

  2. Eric Herman says:

    It would be nice to see….

    Wind conditions, number of tugs, etc…. on this one.

    Easy to say “Ship wiped out the dock”. But contributing factors always tell the tale. Assuming vessel was in ballast, that is a big sail area on her.

    Sometimes you should just say “no” and wait for the conditions to improve. Charter party be damned. But as said, no idea of the conditions.

  3. Rick Spilman says:

    Right now, we do not know the circumstances of the accident. We do know that the ship took out 100 meters of conveyor and roadway, so saying that it “wiped out the dock” is no exaggeration.

    Many, if not most, contacts between ships and fixed objects are simply human error. Small errors in pilotage have huge consequences on a cape-sized bulker. We shall have to wai and see if weather or mechanical failure contributed to the accident. On the other hand, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that a simple mistake made at 1 AM may have set events into motion that ended with ship taking out the conveyor.

  4. Faith Estrella says:

    then if pilots have difficulty in maneuvering bulk carriers, kindly focus on that area for their mastery and safety so the ship’s crews will not be affected in more ways like hinting some blame on the ship’s management

  5. CAPT. D. Peter Boucher, MN (Ret.) says:

    Ms. Estrella raises a fair point, however for the Pilots to do their job they must have sufficient power. Therefore one might conclude there is blame on Management for having low to under-powered engines in the first place. We should have a Maritime Law that requires engine power in relation to size of vessel based on maneuvering ability not just moving the vessel from A to B at X knots. It would be nice to have seafarers and not “bean-counters” make such decisions as these.
    Have Faith and Good Watch.

  6. Rick Spilman says:

    Of course, the pilot, except in relatively rare cases like in the Panama Canal, is an adviser to the captain, who still has responsibility for his ship. Yes, for practical purposes, the pilot still gets “blamed,” even if technically the captain is responsible.

    We still do not have any facts as to what occurred when the Cape Apricot hit the conveyor belt. Were there inadequate tugs for the conditions? Was there a mechanical failure in the steering or propulsion? Or was it simple human error in giving or carrying out helm orders? Time will tell.

  7. Eric Herman says:

    Excellent point Capt. Boucher

    I have been in too many new building design teams where adequate power for thrusters and engines have been pencil whipped down to insufficient or just plain substandard power. Then on the operating side you get constant complaints about schedule integrity and tug fees. All costing much more than the initial investment would have been to guarantee an up to snuff vessel.

    Like peeing your pants when it is cold out, it seems like a great idea at the time……….but later on you pay dearly.

  8. Rick Spilman says:

    I am not aware of cape size bulk carriers fitted with bow thrusters. They are not uncommon on smaller bulk carriers, I have never seen one on one of the larger ships. Or am I just showing my ignorance here? The issue of how many tugs to call out is usually determined by the terminal operator. Unless the ship owner also owns the terminal, in most cases there is no opportunity to shave a few pennies by not calling out an extra tug.

  9. CAPT. D. Peter Boucher, MN (Ret.) says:

    Rick it is somewhat more complex than that for tugs. Different Ports have different agreements for which tug companies can attend the Port. The different companies have different arrangements for which and how many tugs can attend to their vessels. Then there are only so many tugs at each Port. With “tugging” one size does not fit all and usually if tugs are used it is the Pilot who advises the Master as to whom and how many can. Then as in NY/NJ a Berthing Master takes over from the the Port Pilot and he is a Senior Tugmaster. So as said at the beginning complex and of course mostly all Unionised. Then one has the traditional conflict between the Ports Compulsory Pilotage and a Master who is legally in Command but also bound by local Port Bylaws. Oh its nice to be retired!!
    Good Watch.

  10. Rick Spilman says:

    Captain, point well taken. Yes, I recall the first time I left New York on a cargo liner. Two pilots came aboard, which surprised me, until the mate told me that one was the tug pilot and one was the harbor pilot.

    Some terminals are very specific in what size and how many tugs are required for a given sized ship. I believe that this is common in many European terminals these days and not unknown on this side of the water. I know that the Port of Houston pilots have a tug matrix that they use when determining what tug support is needed for a given ship at a given terminal. A few terminals provide the tugs themselves and include the cost in the wharfage fees. I looked up the requirement at the Westshore terminals where they only say that the owner will arrange the tugs.

    The head of the pilots’ association said that the Cape Apricot had a pilot aboard and was assisted by two tugs. Everyone is still very curious exactly why the accident took place.

  11. Alan Stockdale says:

    . The master must yield the conduct of the navigation to a licensed pilot in a pilotage district. The master remains in command and may relieve the pilot of the conduct of the navigation for cause but must report why to the Pilotage Authority. Either the master or the pilot has the conduct, the pilot is not an adviser. In practice, the master is given the benefit of the doubt and if nothing happens the matter is usually let go. The master/pilot relationship is overwhelmingly one of mutual respect and cooperation.