On April 13, a lift boat called The Seacor Power capsized several miles off of Port Fourchon with 19 crew on board. Six of the crew are rescued, six died, and seven remain missing. The tragedy continues to rock the communities along the Gulf, many who either knew the crew or know someone who volunteered their time to search for them.
Today, Tony Clayton wants to explain what happened that day, focusing on the events that led to the vessel capsizing.
High Winds from a “Microburst”
On April 13, the weather information off the coast of Port Fourchon had winds traveling at 7.7 to 10 miles an hour. However, a microburst weather pattern increased winds to around 44 mph. Sometimes, winds were as fast as 70 mph. Still, Seacor Marine asked the Power to sail to an oil platform eight miles offshore, even as the National Weather Service warned of tropical storm-force winds and high waves.
Those winds and waves would have been formidable for any ship, but particularly for lift boats, also called “jack-up barges.” These boats are large and flat, with long extendable legs to jack them up alongside raised oil platforms. The Seacor Power was capable of rising up to 200 feet. But this capability also makes lift boats incredibly vulnerable to high winds and big waves—the exact conditions they sailed into.
Once at sea, the captain of the Seacor Power (who later died) tried to lower the lift boat to steady itself, but it was too late. The wind blew the lift boat over, capsizing it with 19 crew aboard. Lawsuits filed by family members of the Power crew allege that the company was warned about extremely powerful winds before sailing, but they sailed into the area anyway.
The Coast Guard and a fleet of volunteer vessels in the area immediately began rescue efforts, which thankfully rescued six crew from the water. Unfortunately, rescue and recovery efforts were complicated by high winds and waves in the days that followed. Even after the Coast Guard suspended its search on April 19, the volunteers of the Cajun Navy continued searching for the missing crew.
The Vessel Owner in Command When It Sailed
According to Talos Energy, the company that hired Seacor Marine to work on one of its oil platforms, Seacor was in command of the vessel when it sailed into potential storm conditions. As a result, it is solely responsible for what transpired.
“The Seacor Power was in port for service and inspections for several days prior to its departure,” said Talos in a statement. “The vessel was not at a Talos facility and was fully under the command of its captain and Seacor Marine, including when to depart the port.”
Even two months after the incident, it’s not yet clear how Seacor Maritime affected the decision-making process aboard the ship.