In the wake of a recent push boat maritime accident in Houston, in which one crew member was killed, the Coast Guard has issued an alert, urging crew members and vessel owners to ensure that watertight doors are kept closed.

In its investigation, the Coast Guard found that the watertight doors leading to the engine room of the push boat, had been left open. The push boat had been carrying a full load of cargo and fuel, and was in the wake of a tug. In a situation like this, the boat listed to one side, and the waters flooded the engine room. A crewmember working in the engine room was trapped by the waters, and drowned. The vessel then listed over to the other side, and sank into the Houston Ship Channel. Two other crew members who were trapped in the boat, had a narrow escape, breathing in a tiny pocket of air, and then smashing their way through a window.

The Coast Guard alert came after several instances where an accident occurred because the watertight doors had been left open. These incidents have involved commercial fishing vessels and offshore supply vessels. The Coast Guard has harsh words for those mariners, vessel owners and crew members, who know that keeping watertight doors locked is part of good marine practices, but fail to do so anyway.  We have blogged about the dangers of water tight doors before, most notably last month when a tanker crewman injured his hand in a malfunctioning door.

Leaving watertight doors slightly ajar may not seem like such a dangerous thing when you’re sailing in good weather, but as any maritime lawyer will tell you, a number of things can go wrong when you’re in the water. In a situation like this, watertight doors may be the difference between a series or fatal accident, and survival.