Captain of tug that hit Bligh Reef in 2009 was playing video games, U.S. Coast Guard report says
Tug Pathfinder, moored in Valdez after grounding. USCG photo
NOTE: This post has been revised to include a link to the Coast Guard investigative report, and to fix a headline error.
The captain of an oil industry tugboat that ran aground in December 2009 on Bligh Reef, spilling 6,410 gallons of diesel, was playing video games at the time of the mishap, a U.S. Coast Guard investigation has found.
The Coast Guard report says the crew of the tug Pathfinder, part of the Crowley Maritime oil tanker assist and escort fleet at Valdez, violated company policies, and the captain and second mate were unclear as to "who had the conn."
Bligh Reef is a charted navigational hazard that gained infamy when the Exxon Valdez hit it in 1989, spilling nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil.
The Coast Guard report says the captain of the Pathfinder, Ronald Eugene Monsen, had just changed course and sped up the tug, doing so without verifying the position of the vessel. He then turned to a computer to play video games, his back to the forward bridge window.
Monsen "deliberately violated company policy and used the vessel's computer to play hearts or other games, directly after changing course and speed. The Master's actions left the vessel's position unknown, other than an assumption made by the Master on the vessel's previous course," the report says.