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Les enquêtes techniques

Natissa - Mornas english summary

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publié le 28 août 2014

The accident covered by the investigation occurred in two phases that took place on 18 and 19 November 2008 respectively.
At 7:15 p.m. on 28 November 2008, the wheelhouse of the river-marine vessel “Natissa”, registered in Malta and transporting 1,454 tonnes of bulk cement from Nice to Lyons, smashed into the deck of the TGV high-speed rail bridge (“Méditérranée” high-speed line) in Mornas (Vaucluse). The force of the impact crushed the wheelhouse, injuring the pilot who was inside it at the time. The vessel then ran aground on the right bank, 100 m upstream of the bridge.
During this phase, there were no other casualties amongst the members of the crew and there was no interruption to river traffic.

On the next day – 19 November – around 12:00 p.m. the vessel was refloated due to the effects of the wind and current. After colliding with a marker buoy, it ran into the bridge via the navigable channel and remained stuck underneath the bridge deck. There was no pollution.
Nor was there any apparent damage caused to the bridge deck. Only the marker buoy was knocked over. However, the incident on 19 November interrupted river traffic in both directions until 20 November 2008 – the date on which the Natissa was towed upstream and moored at the Lafarge Company’s berthing dock in Mondragon.

The direct cause of the first phase of the accident – the collision with the bridge by the Natissa’s wheelhouse, followed by its grounding upstream of the bridge – would appear to be the pilot forgetting to lower the wheelhouse, or attempting this manoeuvre too late.
The direct cause of the second phase – the grounding of the vessel and its blockage under the bridge, which interrupted river traffic on the Rhône – was the lack of precautions made to ensure the proper mooring of the vessel after the first phase.

The duration of this interruption to river traffic was increased by the difficulties encountered in discussions with the insurance companies.

Five preventive recommendations were formulated following the technical investigation, concerning two groups of identified factors :
- Fatigue of the pilot and its effects on his vigilance
- Inspection of the safety of a vessel that has made an emergency stop.