2010-04-08 / Editorial

Shipping accidents in Narragansett Bay


This car carrier rammed into the dock at Ft. Wetherill in February, 1990. This car carrier rammed into the dock at Ft. Wetherill in February, 1990. Whenever I hear someone claim that LNG tankers have an outstanding safety record and purport that we would never have a disaster here, I recall two major ship accidents that have impacted Jamestown.

It was June, 2000, when a cruise ship dragged its anchor while leaving Newport and snagged the power cables that provided electricity to Jamestown. All of Conanicut Island was without power for several days. Human error was blamed for the accident.

Just about 10 years earlier, a 553-foot-long car carrier rammed into the dock at Ft. Wetherill. The ship had been damaged in a storm at sea and was under escort by two tugboats. The ship’s hydraulic steering system failed, causing the vessel to collide with the dock.

Here’s what the Jamestown Press reported at the time: “Fred Pease was below deck on his 64-foot workboat Beavertail last Thursday morning when he first heard the distress signal.

“The second time he heard the warning blasts, they were closer – a lot closer.

“Pease came up on deck, saw the 13-story-tall transport ship heading straight for him and jumped onto the Ft. Wetherill dock. Moments later, the carrier slammed into the pier and his boat, snapping its mooring lines and knocking it north toward the rocks round Bull Point.

“‘It was a sight I won’t soon forget,’” Pease said.

Over the years, we’ve seen ships that have run aground and ships that have spilled fuel. Shipping accidents do happen in Narragansett Bay.

— Jeff McDonough

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