Built in 1975, by Main Ion Works of Houma, Louisiana (hull #297) as the Valour for Interstate Oil Transport of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
At the time Interstate Oil Transportation operated two fleets. Their Northeast Fleet or "Green Fleet" operated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And their Southern Fleet or "White fleet" which operated out of Tampa, Florida.
However, over the years many changes came to Interstate Oil, when a company called Southern National Resources (also known as SONAT Marine) acquired Interstate Oil Transportation.
Eventually a group of managers at SONAT Marine offered to form a partnership to raise the funds necessary to purchase the SONAT Marine subsidiary. These eleven partners included some who had worked for IOT since the 1950's. On April 14, 1987 Maritrans Partners of Tampa, Florida. Assumed control of SONAT's tug and barge operations.
However, in March of 1989 the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound. In 1990, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was passed calling for the double hulling of all petroleum carrying vessels by 2015. As well, as other stipulations that effected Maritrans including manning, preparedness and spill prevention. Maritrans filed suit to fight the stipulations set fourth by OPA '90.
Maritrans had begun to consolidate its business by the mid 1990's. By first, backing out of the black oil trade and carry only petroleum products and petrochemicals. The phosphate trade and local transport in Baltimore that was part of the Harbor Towing subsidiary did not fit into Maritrans's new business model. As Maritrans backed out local companies moved in that included Bouchard Transportation of Melville, New York and Vane Brothers of Baltimore, Maryland.
She was a twin screw rated at 6,000 horsepower.
On January 18, of 2006 she sank forty Miles off the Coast of Wilmington, North Carolina.
The Valour began her trip from Delaware to Texas pushing the fully loaded, 175,000 bbl barge M 192 . Prior to departure the tug's fuel, potable water and wash water tanks were topped off. All of the ballast tanks were empty. At 1130, in anticipation of heavy weather, the Captain ordered that the tug be taken out of the notch and transitioned to towing astern.
By 1500, that afternoon with the Valour making seven knots on a course of 200 to 225 degrees true. The winds had increased to 25 to 35 knots from the SSW with 5 to 7 foot seas. The Chief Mate noticed that a slight port list had developed.
The Chief Mate, who was the watch officer, ordered the Assistant Engineer to pump water for 15 minutes into the #18 starboard ballast tank, which corrected the port list.
At 1930, the Captain, had assumed the watch, he then ordered the Chief Engineer to pump out the #18 starboard ballast tank. The ballast tanks were all empty, this action left the Valour with a slight starboard list. The weather continued to deteriorate, and by 2130 the winds were S at 50 to 60 knots, gusting to 70, with 10 foot seas.
At 2200, the Chief Mate alerted the Captain that there was a slight starboard list (which was consistent with the tug's stability letter). The conditions were setting the barge to the north, and that strain on the tow wire may have possibly exaggerated the list. At 2215, the Captain ordered the Chief Engineer to pump water for 15 minutes into the #18 port ballast tank to correct for the starboard list. Water continued to be pumped into that tank for over one hour, at least forty minutes longer than ordered. At or around 2300-2315 the Valour leveled off and began to list to port.
At 2316, Valour was listing to port and also began rolling to port, the Captain, then ordered the Chief Engineer to pump off all ballast. twenty minutes later, that operation was stopped and they then began transferring from the #18 port ballast tank to the #18 starboard ballast tank.
Aboard the Valour there where three pairs of port and starboard fuel tanks (#'s 4, 5 & 17) were connected by cross-connect lines equipped with isolation valves. The #12 port and starboard wash water tanks were similarly arranged, with the addition of a smaller secondary cross-over line. These valves were required, by regulation, to be kept closed when underway. The #5 port and starboard fuel tanks (which fed the day tank for the main engines) were left open. During the post-accident dives, it was discovered that the isolation valve between the #4 port and starboard fuel tanks was also left open. In addition, it was theorized, but not confirmed that the isolation valve on the secondary cross-connect line between the wash water tanks was also left open. The valves are kept closed so as to prevent hydrostatic balancing between the tanks and to minimize free-surface effect, both of which are detrimental to a vessel's stability.
A substantial port list inadvertently began to flow by gravity (hydrostatic balancing) from starboard to port, thereby increasing the severity of the list and eventually causing the aft deck to become awash. It is was theorized that sea water is likely to have entered the #19 & 20 aft ballast tanks through their deck vents, reducing reserve buoyancy further and adding more "free surface effect". To counteract this the Captain ordered all ballast to be pumped off, then twenty minutes later to start transferring it into the #18 starboard ballast tank again, causing even more loss of reserve buoyancy. In the midst of the stability issues the barge had begun to overtake the Valour and was now just off the port quarter, with the weight of the tow wire hanging off the port side of the tug. This was greatly compounded by the Chief Mate suffering a fatal fall down the ladder from the wheelhouse and then the loss of an AB overboard. Shortly after midnight on the 18th the crew finally released the tow to avoid being tripped. The Valour continued to list she rolled further to port until it was on its side, at this point sea water began entering the vessel through the engine room vents on the stack deck.
At 0230 on January 18, 2006, the Valour was listing heavily to port and going down by the stern, she sank approximately forty nautical miles off Cape Fear, North Carolina.
The Captain and five crew members, including the Chief Engineer, were rescued by (a tug that was transiting the area light boat en route to an assignment) the Justine Foss . The Chief Engineer, however, died on board shortly afterward of hypothermia, three lives were lost in this incident: the Chief Mate, Chief Engineer and an Able Seaman.
The Coast Guard Investigation found that the causes of the sinking were gale to storm-force weather, vessel design shortcomings, loss of stability, and human factors. The vessel's design shortcomings included a lack of valve position indicators for the isolation valves on the tank cross-overs, and a lack of tank level indicators. The loss of stability was caused by a failure to abide by the conditions stipulated in the stability letter. Namely, that hydrostatic balancing of the cross-connected fuel tanks occurred because the cross overs were left open, and that ballasting operations were undertaken to correct the list without first knowing what was causing the list. The human factors include poor communications, the Captain's lack of command presence, the Captain's loss of situational awareness regarding the vessel's stability, negligence and misconduct on the part of the Captain, negligence on the part of the Second Mate, and misconduct on the part of the Chief and Assistant Engineers.
The tug was declared a loss, and remains where she sank.