Germany’s Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation says that it cannot give precise conclusions regarding the collision between the ro-ro ferry Skania and the fishing vessel Gitte in part because of the refusal by Skania’s owner, Unity Line Co. Ltd of Szczecin, to release the vessel’s Voyage Data Recorder and markedly different accounts of the circumstances. BSU does use the incident to highlight the value of AIS aboard smaller vessels.
In its summary investigation report BSU says: “At about 0141 on 17 February 20091, the Ro/Ro ferry Skania, sailing under the flag of the Bahamas, collided with the fishing vessel Gitte, registered in the Federal Republic of Germany, while en route from Swinoujscie, Poland, to Ystad, Sweden. At the time, the fishing vessel anchored approx. 13 nm east of Rügen because of engine failure. For unknown reasons, the watchkeepers on the bridge of the ferry failed to notice the fishing vessel, which anchored on the ferry’s course line, collided with the starboard forecastle and then dragged the fishing vessel with her anchor line until it broke shortly afterwards.
The Gitte was damaged above the waterline; however, she remained buoyant and sailed to the port of Sassnitz under her own steam after the engine was repaired. The ferry also continued her voyage after communicating briefly with the Master of the fishing vessel. There were neither injuries nor environmental pollution.”
Before leaving the wheelhouse to assist the engineer, Gitte’s master reportedly switched on his NUC lights, two red rotating lights, one above the other, on the signal mast above the wheelhouse. The vessel’s other navigation lights reportedly consisted of the anchor light and halogen spotlights on the mast on the forecastle, four halogen lights on the wheelhouse and six deck lights.
At about 0140, Skania’s Master was in his quarters when he reportedly noticed a thud on the hull. He then reportedly immediately called the bridge and asked the Second Nautical Watch Officer for an explanation. The Officer on Watch reportedly told him that the cause of the thud must have been a wave. It is claimed that about one minute later, the officer called and informed him that the cause of the thud was reportedly likely to have been a collision with “a small unlit floating object”.
During the 30 minutes before the accident “the ferry sailed ‘as if on rails’ directly for the anchored fishing vessel with absolutely steady course and speed values, says BSU.
The BSU says it is “abstaining from conveying those conclusions which are one-sided and/or attribute blame to the FV Gitte that is ultimately unsubstantiated”.