Tugs are unforgiving vessels. The enormous forces involved mean that when something goes wrong it goes wrong very fast and often with fatal consequences. North Tug’s crew were lucky, after inexperience, poor communications and a lack of mandatory requirements led to the vessel capsizing while assisting
The workboat North Tug capsized and sank when it was assisting the cruise ship Ocean Princess during its departure from the quay in Kirkenes on 10 June 2013. The plan was to move the cruise ship sideways out from the quay, and North Tug was to assist in pulling the bow of the cruise ship away from the quay. There was a change of plan without this being communicated to the skipper of North Tug. This led to North Tug being pulled along by the cruise ship and moving backwards with the towline over its stern. This is a very unstable situation for a conventional tugboat with the towing point forward of the propellers. Because of the speed at which North Tug was moving astern, the aft deck started to fill up with water, which caused the boat to heel. North Tug ended up partly sideways on the direction of movement. The tug capsized as a consequence of water on deck and the transverse forces from the towline. Both crew members on board North Tug saved themselves by jumping into the water.
Currently, no mandatory requirements apply to the building and inspection of Norwegian tugboats with a length of less than 15 metres. Work is presently under way to put in place regulations that will ensure that workboats of less than 15 metres that are to carry out towing operations must meet specific requirements relating to intact stability and towing line attachment and release arrangements.
It is a basic operational condition for carrying out safe tugboat operations that the personnel involved have the necessary experience and work together as a team. Furthermore, it is essential that the communication between the vessel being assisted and the assisting vessel is adequate, accurate and understood by everyone involved. It is also necessary for the parties involved to be aware of the capacities and limitations of both the vessel to be assisted and the tugboat.
North Tug was not a certified tugboat, nor did the crew on board have experience of handling tonnages as big as Ocean Princess. None of the parties involved considered this to represent any particularly great risk. Nor did any of the parties involved conduct thorough risk assessments of the operation whereby the risks and potential undesirable incidents could have been identified and relevant risk-reduction measures implemented. The execution of the operation was therefore characterised by a lack of risk assessments and resulting inadequate planning and communication.
Norway’s Accident Investigation Board has issued the following recommendations:
- The crew of North Tug did not carry out a risk assessment of the operation of assisting Ocean Princess during departure from the quay. A thorough risk assessment beforehand could have contributed to identifying the risks associated with the operation, thus ensuring the implementation of risk-reduction measures necessary to prevent the accident. Dykknor AS is recommended to introduce procedures to ensure that risk assessments are carried out of towing operations and that the risks involved are considered in the planning and execution of the operations.
- One of the Norwegian Coastal Administration’s pilots carried out the pilotage of Ocean Princess. During the departure, an uncertified workboat was used to assist Ocean Princess in moving away from the quay, without the pilot having sufficient overview of the workboat’s capacities and limitations. The risks associated with the operation were not mapped in advance. Consequently, the pilot was unable to provide the best possible advice to the crew of the cruise ship regarding the manoeuvring away from the quay. The Norwegian Coastal Administration is recommended to ensure that its pilots carry out thorough risk assessments of operations involving the use of tugboats in order to have a sufficient basis for contributing the advice and instructions necessary to the safe execution of the operation.
- At the time of Ocean Princess’s departure from Kirkenes, no certified tugboats with trained crews were available in Kirkenes. The crew on board used an uncertified workboat to assist the cruise ship during departure from the quay without having sufficient overview of the workboat’s capacities and limitations. The risks associated with the operation were not mapped in advance. This resulted in inadequate planning, leading to the operation being executed in a manner that contributed to the workboat capsizing and sinking. Princess Cruises are recommended to ensure that the crews on board the company’s vessels have adequate procedures for carrying out risk assessments of operations that involve the use of tugboats. The crews’ planning and execution of such operations must reflect the properties and limitations of the assisting vessel.
- The shipping company’s planning included a mapping of local tugboat resources well before the port call. The information obtained did not include tugboat type, and thus gave no indication of the tugboat’s capacities and limitations. As a result, the captain on board did not have the necessary knowledge of the capacities and limitations of the planned tugboat. No quality assurance or updating of the information took place before the port call. As a result, the captain was also not aware that the planned tugboat was unavailable when, shortly before departure, the decision was made to use a tugboat. Princess Cruises are recommended to ensure that the crews on board the company’s vessels have a sufficient and up-to-date basis for planning operations that involve the use of tugboats.