2016 Dec 23

Collision: Neither Vessel Keeping Proper Lookout

The U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its report into the collision between a cargo ship and a bunker barge highlighting that neither vessel was keeping a proper lookout.

On August 29, 2015, in daylight and good visibility, the cargo ship Daroja and the bunker barge Erin Wood collided just east of Peterhead, Scotland. Erin Wood was badly damaged and its crew put in danger; there was also some minor pollution from leaking fuel cargo.

Daroja’s bulbous bow struck Erin Wood’s port side. The bunker barge became lodged under Daroja’s bow and started being driven sideways; in an attempt to break his vessel free, Erin Wood’s skipper immediately deselected the autopilot, applied maximum port rudder and put the engine to full ahead.

Within seconds, Erin Wood heeled over 90º to starboard and seawater rushed into its bridge, accommodation areas and engine room through the vessel’s open weathertight doors. The skipper escaped from the flooded bridge through an open window; meanwhile, the deckhand, who was in the mess room, was fully submerged in seawater.

After about 15 seconds, Erin Wood broke free, rolled back upright and passed down Daroja’s port side on an opposing heading. As Erin Wood came upright, the skipper found himself clinging to the bridge roof. The deckhand was washed out of the mess room and over the ship’s side as the floodwater rushed back out though the open door. The deckhand grabbed hold of the top edge of the bulwark to prevent himself being swept completely overboard. When the rush subsided, the deckhand was able to climb back over the bulwark onto the vessel’s upper deck.

The accident happened because a proper lookout was not being kept on either vessel, states MAIB. This meant that watchkeepers in both vessels were unaware of the risk of collision and took no action to avoid the other ship.

Similar to previous MAIB investigations, this accident highlights the potential consequences when the risks associated with the Officer of the Watch being the sole lookout are not effectively addressed.

A high standard of watchkeeping involves using all the information available on the bridge to build and maintain a good picture. In this case radar, visual and Automatic Identification System information could have been used more effectively on both ships.

The flooding of Erin Wood happened because the vessel was underway with both the upper deck weathertight doors open.

This investigation identified significant safety shortcomings in the management and operation of Erin Wood. The vessel’s crew did not have the competence necessary to operate a small tanker and there was not an effective safety management system. This unsafe situation arose because Erin Wood’s managing company lacked experience in the industry sector and prioritized commercial gain ahead of safety at sea.

Risks associated with Erin Wood’s operations also went undetected by the flag and coastal states. This happened because the Flag State’s process of initial registration was not sufficiently thorough and because Erin Wood was not inspected under the Port State Control regime.

Safety recommendations have been made to the managers of both vessels intended to raise the standards of watchkeeping at sea. A recommendation has also been made to the St Kitts and Nevis International Ship Registry regarding the inspection of new vessels joining the flag.

The report is available here.


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