Collision And Fire

Fiery Freighter-Tanker Collision

By James Donahue

Fog and the reckless actions of a pilot on the Norwegian freighter Fernview were blamed for a fiery collision with the tanker Dynafuel off the New England coast on Nov. 14, 1963,

U. S. Coast Guard helicopters removed the injured sailors and surface craft evacuated all of the others and extinguished the fires that broke out on both vessels. The Coast Guard actions could not save the Dynafuel, however, which capsized and sank.

The pilot aboard the Fernview, Ellis W. Hildreth, was found guilty of negligence by a Coast Guard examiner during a hearing in Baltimore. The official report found that Heldreth failed to navigate the freighter at a moderate speed in fog, contributing to the collision with the U.S. tanker Dynafuel in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

The 309-foot tanker was outbound in the main channel, in ballast, when the crash occurred at 6:55 a.m. The 510-foot-long Fernview was traveling northeast from New York, bound to Boston with general cargo.


The master of the Dynafuel testified that he picked up the image of the approaching freighter on his radar and attempted to avoid a pending crash. He turned his vessel, then threw his engines in reverse, bringing the ship to where it was dead in the water when the Fernview's bow emerged from the gloom and rammed the tanker amidships.

The larger freighter penetrated the port side of the tanker just aft of the midships deck house.

Four sailors on the tanker were hurt, but there were no deaths.

A board of inquiry found that the Fernview was moving at 18 knots, and that the ship's radar was restricted by large booms mounted on the side of the hull. Consequently, the pilot was unaware that another vessel was nearby until minutes before impact.

Even though the tanker was in ballast, that is her diesel tanks were empty and she was running with ballast tanks full of water, there were enough fumes to cause a fire. Both ships burned.

The Fermview was able to return to New York harbor under its own power after the fire was extinguished. The ship was not only repaired, but in 1970 was extended by one container section. She was owned by a Saudi Shipping Line until 1986 when it was sent to India for breaking.


Great And Lost Ships Of The World