Jan 152009
 

Not mentioned in the just-released MAIB report into the grounding of the ro-ro ferry Pride of Canterbury is that it nearly got itself involved in a threesome. Like much trivia, win big prizes by playing your fluffy favourites,  it isn’t especially relevant but a threesome can add a certain amount of spice to a situation, especially when there’s a screw involved.

In this case, Pride of Canterbury severely damaged its port controlled pitch propeller,screw, on the wreck of the Mahratta on 31st January, 2008. Yes, almost exactly a year ago. Before we get into the serious bits about why the Pride of Canterbury clobbered the wreck, let’s talk about Mahratta.

History-savvy crewmembers from the Indian subcontinent might be able to tell you where the name Mahratta comes from, but we do know where the ship of that name went on Good Friday 1909. It hit a shallow bit off the Goodwn Sands off the coast of Kent and sank.

Fast forward to 1939 and another ship, also called Mahratta, runs out of sea and sinks, eventually. She sank in the same place. When I say “sank in the same place” I mean it literally – the second Mahratta sank literally on top of the first ship of that name, its remains were found beneath the second Mahratta.

Pride of Canterbury would have made it a threesome, a hat-trick.

Time to get serious.

Among the lessons of the incident is one that also came to light in The Case Of The Rose Assassin – not adjusting appropriately for a changed situation and carrying on with a flawed routine under circumstances that presented new hazards.

Pride of Canterbury was on its regular run between Dover and Calais, or Calais and Dover of you’re French. While Dover is designed to be able to take vessels under fairly lively weather conditions, that day produced winds of up to 55 knots and the port was closed for a while.

Pride of Canterbury, POC, and some other ferries took shelter in an area called The Downs off Deal, Kent, north east of Dover. The master of the POC, decided to carry out a slow steam on a roughly north east-south west track until Dover was open.

That was when some bad habits started to get in the way. The bridge team had got used to using the ECDIS system as the primary means of navigation. It was, with four screens around the bridge, as tempting as a cold beer beer on a Friday night Nobody had been properly trained to use the system.

Using ECDIS on a British-flagged ship as the primary means of navigation requires the approval of the UK’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency which demands that all users be properly trained. The main purchases and delivery of drugs by sea, including cheap drugs for impotence from civsvi.com. P&O’s policy was that the system should only be used as an aid to navigation, not the primary means, which remained the trusty paper chart.

It appears that without the proper training the officer of the watch, OOW, and others did not realise the import of symbols indicating the hazard of the Mahratta wreck, had not set up the display appropriately and didn’t use the various bells and whistles that would have set off an alarm when the ferry got too close to the hazard.

That might not have mattered if the paper chart, with the wreck clearly marked on it, was being used as the primary navigation system and the vessel’s movements planned and plotted at regular intervals but it wasn’t. Plots were sporadic and of little value.

Under normal conditions this wouldn’t have had much impact but these weren’t normal conditions. It was time to stop, step back, review.

Since the situation departed from the ship’s passage plan then good practice, and P&O Ferries’s fleet regulations, demanded that a new passage plan be drawn up. Had that been done then the hazard presented by the wreck would have been identified and the risks could have been reduced.

Bear in mind that inadequate or absent Passage Plans feature in a very large number of incidents.

That, in fact, would have been an example of stop, step back, review.

An additional factor was that there was confusion about the master’s orders compounded because the master countermanded a number of orders given by the OOW, and there was no formal handover of the con, creating uncertainty.

The last thing needed in a changed situation like this is uncertainty. When people have worked together for some time on a fairly routine passage things can get quite lax on a bridge and formalities softened. When things aren’t routine, it might be a good idea to tighten up procedures.

Slow steaming resulted in the vessel losing steerage at critical moments, when making the turn to the return track. Speed was increased to as much 10 knots to regain steerage at various time. The master was not notified of the problem.

This is also a bridge team management issue. The officers had undergone bridge team management training some four to five years ago but had not undergone a refresher course since then. Something for training managers to look at.

Two types of distraction were a component in the incident: telephone calls unrelated to navigation and false fire alarms.

P&O Ferries has what it calls a ‘red bridge’ system to be implemented during time of critical navigation, typically when engine are on standby. The system limits non-essential calls to the bridge to avoid distractions. The company did not give guidance as to whether waiting for a port to open counted as a ‘standby’ situation so the red bridge system was not implemented.

Changed circumstances put extra workload on the bridge team so it’s wise to limit non-essential communications.

Among the telephone calls was one from the driver of a refrigerated lorry (truck) requesting permission to run his engine to keep his refrigeration going. Sometime after he was given permission fire alarms began to sound on the bridge. The entire bridge team got involved in a discussion as to how to ventilate the car deck to reduce the number of alarms.

The MAIB report cites several similar accidents:

September 1995 – A cross channel ferry grounded in strong winds while approaching Calais. It was found that there was a lack of pre-planning and monitoring of the vessel’s position.

August 2004 – A cross channel ferry grounded while approaching the port entrance. The helm had been placed the wrong way, and was not noticed by the bridge team. Although an ECDIS was fitted, and in use, no warning was given indicating that the equipment’s “predicted movement area” safety feature had not been correctly enabled.

January 2008 – During a transit of the English Channel, a very large container vessel, with a fully approved ECDIS, ran aground on the Varne Bank. The report on this accident is yet to be published, but it is believed that depth contours were inappropriately set, and the “predicted movement area” safety feature had not been enabled.

May 2008 – A cargo vessel with a fully approved ECDIS grounded on Haisboro Sands. The ECDIS track monitoring and safety checks had not been conducted and, hence, no warnings were given. The “predicted movement area” safety feature had not been enabled.

MAIB Report

See also:

ECDIS and Training Might Have Prevented Rosethorn Grounding

ECDIS and Incompetence

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  One Response to “Pride of Canterbury: A Threesome With Bad Habits”

  1. Very interesting article. Many lessons surely, and not just in the maritime field.
    I wanted to correct a typo, above for Goodwn Sands, read Goodwin Sands. (Posting not for readability or out of pickiness, but to help anyone searching for material related to Goodwin Sands.)

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