An administrative law judge has suspended Pilot John C. McCarthy III
's license Friday for eight months, with additional 12 months probation, after ruling that the Coast Guard proved its case of negligence and misconduct against him.
The judge's decision stemmed from a March 14, 2006, incident on the Savannah River where
the tank vessel Charleston, piloted by McCarthy, passed the liquefied natural gas facility
on Elba Island at a speed in excess of 14 knots during an LNG transfer. The surge resulting from the vessel's speed caused an emergency dock shutdown, cargo hose separations, the collapse of a gangway, and mooring lines to part. All emergency equipment at the LNG facility functioned as designed and no LNG was released as a result of the damage.
Following a comprehensive investigation, the Coast Guard pursued action against McCarthy's license due to concern that his negligence posed a hazard to navigation and based on the pilot's past history, which included three previous proved charges for negligence. In addition to the action taken against McCarthy, the Coast Guard determined the Captain of the tank ship CHARLESTON was also negligent in his role and was issued a letter or warning in lieu of suspension or revocation.
The Coast Guard is responsible for navigational safety on the Savannah River and enforces a Regulated Navigation Area to ensure the safety and security of LNG operations. As a result of this case, the Coast Guard has further clarified guidance for the port. Namely, inbound and outbound vessels transiting past a moored LNG ship must actively communicate with them to determine the need to deploy stand-by towing vessels as emergency situations arise. The Coast Guard routinely reviews it's guidance for LNG operations with input from the port community to account for changing conditions and to ensure continued safe and secure LNG operations.