Watchkeepers on the bulk carrier Sheng Neng 1 were so fatigued after supervising the loading of coal at Australia’s Gladstone port that they were not fit to carry out a navigational watch, concludes the Australian Transport Safety Board’s investigation into the subsequent grounding.
No fatigue management was in place and the grounding occurred because the chief mate did not alter the ship’s course at the designated course alteration position. “His monitoring of the ship’s position was ineffective and his actions were affected by fatigue”, says ATSB.
The ship’s hull was seriously damaged by the grounding, with the engine room and six water ballast and fuel oil tanks being breached, resulting in a small amount of pollution.
At 1705 on 3 April 2010, the Chinese registered bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 grounded on Douglas Shoal, about 50 miles north of the entrance to the port of Gladstone, Queensland. The ship’s hull was seriously damaged by the grounding, with the engine room and six water ballast and fuel oil tanks being breached, resulting in a small amount of pollution.
The ATSB investigation found that the grounding occurred because the chief mate did not alter the ship’s course at the designated course alteration position. His monitoring of the ship’s position was ineffective and his actions were affected by fatigue.
The ATSB identified four safety issues during the investigation: there was no effective fatigue management system in place to ensure that the bridge watchkeepers were fit to stand a navigational watch after they had supervised the loading of a cargo of coal in Gladstone; there was insufficient guidance in relation to the proper use of passage plans, including electronic route plans, in the ship’s safety management system; there were no visual cues to warn either the chief mate or the seaman on lookout duty, as to the underwater dangers directly ahead of the ship; and, at the time of the grounding, the protections afforded by the requirement for compulsory pilotage and active monitoring of ships by REEFVTS, were not in place in the sea area off Gladstone.
The ATSB has issued two safety recommendations to Shen Neng 1‘s management company regarding the safety issues associated with fatigue management and passage planning and acknowledges the safety action taken by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in relation to the extension of REEFVTS coverage to include the waters off Gladstone.
Fatigue remains a major contributor to maritime accidents, with overworked officers on under-manned ships little little support or understanding from shore-based personnel. Efforts to improve the situation consistently meet opposition from flags of convenience, and some not-so flags of convenience.
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