On 8 September 2006, the Hong Kong registered, cape-sized1 bulk carrier Creciente arrived off Port Hedland, Western Australia, after a voyage from Kokur Japan, and anchored while waiting to berth to load a cargo of iron ore.
At 17302 on 10 September 2006, Creciente berthed port side to Finucane Island berth D using a modified mooring arrangement because of construction work that was in progress on the adjacent berth.
At about 0230 on 12 September, when the ship was almost fully loaded with iron ore, the duty seaman noticed that the ship was about one metre off the wharf forward and aft so he went forward to tighten the headlines. At about the same time, the chief mate, who was on the wharf checking the ship’s draught, noticed that the ship had moved forward and was about one metre out from the wharf so he instructed the second mate to go aft and check the ship’s mooring lines.
When the second mate reached the aft mooring station, he could see the mooring lines jerking and paying out under load. At least one of the aft mooring lines had parted. He tried to tighten the mooring winch brakes but this seemed to have no effect. He went to the nearest shipboard telephone and called the master and then made an emergency announcement calling the ship’s crew to their mooring stations.
At about 0245, the master went to the bridge and saw that the ship’s stern was about 30 m off the wharf. He called harbour control and reported that the ship was ‘falling off the wharf’ and that he needed immediate assistance. Harbour control immediately contacted the local tug operator, then called the duty pilot and the harbour master.
By 0255, two workboats that were working in the harbour had attempted to push Creciente’s stern back towards the wharf before the harbour tugs became available.
The master called the chief engineer and requested the use of the main engine as soon as possible. Within four minutes the bridge was given control of the main engine and the master ran the main engine in an unsuccessful attempt to move the ship’s stern back towards the wharf.
At about 0310, despite the efforts of one tug and the workboats, Creciente’s stern probably made contact with the side of the channel opposite the wharf, causing the rudder to jam hard over to port until it was freed at about 0340.
At about 0324, a pilot boarded Creciente and began using the ship’s engine and the two tugs that had arrived to prevent the ship from grounding again and return it to its berth.
At about 0434, the harbour master informed the pilot that, in about 20 minutes, he would have no under keel clearance as the tide was still ebbing. He instructed the pilot to move the ship to the deepest part of the channel and hold it there using the ship’s engine and the tugs until later in the morning, when the tide had risen.
At about 0515, the rudder again became stuck hard over to port and, by about 0615, the ship’s engine was stopped because the ship was hard aground and could not be moved back into the centre of the channel.
At about 0724, the tide began to flood and the tugs continued to hold the ship in position until it refloated at 0947. Creciente transited the channel without any further incident and, at 1430, anchored outside the harbour.
An underwater damage assessment revealed that the rudder was cracked, the rudder stock was twisted, four of the five propeller blades were bent, and some of the ship’s bottom and side plating was set in by as much as 300 mm in places.
At 1305 on 30 September, Creciente departed from the Port Hedland anchorage, with the tug Seiha Maru No 2 in attendance, bound for Kashima, Japan.
The report identifies the following safety issues and issues two recommendations and five safety advisory notices to address them:
• The additional layers of mooring rope stored on the mooring winch drums effectively reduced the holding power of the winch brakes, which caused the brakes to slip at below their designed holding capacity.
• The winch brake drums had not been effectively maintained, being heavily pitted and generally in poor condition, which further decreased the brakes holding capacity.
• Many of the mooring winch brakes were probably not fully applied which allowed the brakes to slip more easily.
• The mooring lines were not monitored effectively in the period leading up to the incident, which allowed the ship to move away from the wharf, because insufficient manpower was utilised for the task.
• Creciente did not have any guidelines or procedures for mooring the ship. Consequently, the master did not adequately assess the risks that the ship’s mooring arrangement, and the likely winch brake condition, posed to the ship’s ability to remain at its berth under the prevailing tidal conditions.
• Creciente’s classification society, Lloyd’s Register, did not have rules or guidelines in place to ensure that the mooring winch brakes were adequately inspected and maintained, allowing the condition of the brakes to deteriorate and slip at below their designed holding capacity.
• The Port Hedland Port Authority did not identify the possibility of a ship breaking away from its berth and adequately assess or address the associated risks in the port emergency plan.