Cruise Ship Crew Relied on Outdated Chart Before Striking Pier in Alaska

By Mike Schuler.

Overreliance on an electronic chart, miscommunication and an outdated navigational chart were all factors in a cruise ship damaging a cruise terminal pier last year near Sitka, Alaska, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Tuesday.

The incident occurred on May 9, 2022, when the cruise ship Radiance of the Seas struck a mooring dolphin while docking at the Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal, causing a minor hull indentation and damage to three of the four pilings supporting the dolphin.

While there were no reported injuries to the 1,375 passengers, 782 crew and four pilots on board, the incident resulted in $2.1 million in damages to the pier and impacted cruise ship traffic to the terminal for the remainder of the 2022 season.

The NTSB’s investigation found that the crew of the Radiance of the Seas relied heavily on the vessel’s electronic chart and information system (ECDIS) and an outdated navigational chart to plan and execute the docking.

In April 2021, the Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal pier was extended by 395 feet, including adding two mooring dolphins connected by a walkway and a 410-foot-long floating dock next to the existing dolphins. However, the Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal did not inform the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency in charge of updating U.S. coastal nautical charts, of the extension.

In fact, NOAA had no record of the construction until NTSB investigators informed them of the pier’s extension after the contact.

While docking, the bosun and master did not confirm the type of distances that were being communicated during the docking. The bosun was relaying accurate distances to the pier’s northernmost dolphin, but the master incorrectly assumed the bosun was calling out how much clearance the ship would have as the stern passed the dolphin.