Britain’s Marine Accident Investigation Board, has released its report into the capsize of the tug Ijsselstroom in the port of Peterhead 14 June 2009 and concluded that the skipper whose knowledge and experience had not been assessed, used an inherently unstable operation without a bridle arrangement that might have prevented the vessel girting, and did not use the emergency brake lift control when the tug got into difficulties.
Says the MAIB synopsis:
The tug Ijsselstroom had been working on the construction of a new berth and breakwater in the Port of Peterhead. On the morning of 14 June 2009 she was tasked to act as a stern tug for the barge Tak Boa 1, which was arriving off the port with a cargo of 5000 tonnes of large rocks from Sweden.
Ijsselstroom’s skipper chose to deploy her towline over her stern and intended to maintain position and heading relative to the barge by using differential ahead power on her two engines. A bridle wire was not rigged. As the lead tug increased speed, the skipper found that he was unable to control Ijsselstroom’s yawing motion effectively, and five minutes after connecting to the barge, the vessel took a large sheer to starboard, girted and capsized.
The investigation identified a number of factors that contributed to the accident, including:
• Van Wijngaarden Marine Services relied too heavily on the individual knowledge and experience of its skippers to carry out a safe operation and did not have a formal staff training programme. However, the skippers’ knowledge and experience were never assessed.
• For a conventional tug, towing over the stern, while running astern, is an inherently unstable mode of operation.
• The tow speed was too high to replicate earlier, successful entries using Ijsselstroom as the stern tug.
• The lack of a bridle wire or gob rope meant there was no physical safety device to prevent Ijsselstroom from girting when directional control of the tug was lost.
• Ijsselstroom’s skipper had not been trained in the use of the emergency brake lift control, had not tested it or witnessed its effect, and did not operate it when the tug got into difficulties.
• The pilot had not adhered to the port’s procedures regarding risk assessments prior to the arrival of Tak
Since 1998 MAIB has received seven reports of tug boats or workboats girting. Of these, two led to full investigations by MAIB.
On 8 September 1998, the workboat Trijnie was acting as a stern tug to the 7686 GRT tanker Tillerman for her manoeuvre to the entrance lock for Milford Docks. As Trijnie attempted a peel off turn, from where she was running on the tanker’s starboard quarter to her port quarter, the towline became tight across the tug’s port beam, heeling her over to port and allowing water over the after deck. Despite best efforts, the coxswain could not break out of the girting, and Trijnie capsized and sank with the loss of one life.
The investigation found that Trijnie did not have a gob rope or bridle wire rigged; the emergency tow release was not connected; the operations manager who assigned Trijnie did not know what towing mode she would use; and the pilot did not know that this was the first time that the skipper had undertaken such an operation.
On 19 December 2007, the tug Flying Phantom girted and sank with the loss of the lives of three of her four crew members. She was acting as a bow tug for the bulk carrier Red Jasmine during a transit of the River Clyde in thick fog.
The investigation’s findings included: that the tug’s emergency release system had not operated quickly enough; the tug’s operators had no operational limits or procedures for operating in fog; the port risk assessment was poor; and the port did not have a suitable audit system in place to highlight any gaps in the SMS.