Oct 192014

Each week we present an audio podcast from our archives

An explosion aboard a ship carrying flammable cargo is a master’s nightmare. This nightmare will really make your hair stand on end.

Listen To The Podcast

We’re alongside berth number 1 in Santa Clara oil terminal, Brazil on 17th January 2001. Our ship is the Emilia Theresa, a 3,336 gross tonne chemical tanker managed by Unifleet and flagged in the Isle of Man. She’s loading benzene into her twelve wing tanks, six starboard, six on the port side.

Example of Sampling and Ullage arrangements for each tank. (Behind is the open ullage port with the easy open handles in front is the restricted ullage / sampling port)

Next to each tank lid are two ports, an open ullage port with threaded easy-open handles and a closed ullage port. Cargo data sheets are posted as they should be, with warnings in English that samples should be taken using only the closed ullage port. Special equipment is needed to take samples from the closed, or restricted, ullage ports, and it’s kept in the ship’s aft pumproom.

It’s 1252 and the Emilia Theresa’s Houtin screw pumps have filled eight tanks. Now the filling of the last tanks, number one tanks port and starboard, begins.

About four and a half hours later with loading almost complete, the cargo surveyor comes aboard. His name is Jorge Santos. There isn’t a lot of conversation with the officers or crew of the Emilia Theresa; the cargo surveyor is Brazilian; he speaks Portuguese but his English is patchy while the ten officers and crew of the ship are a mixture of Finnish, Russian, Polish and Ukrainian. Continue reading »

Oct 162014

cmvavenueMurphy’s Law is more consistent than the Law of Gravity: If something can go wrong it will, and at the most critical moment. An unresolved engine problem, a contined waterway and an overtaking maneouvre bought together the 12,878 dwt Antigua and Barbuda-flagged CMV Conmar Avenue with the 88,669 dwt Netherlands-flagged Maersk Kalmar on the Outer Weser between fairway buoys 29 and 31 in the Fedderwarder Fairway, Germany.

The joint accident report from Germany’s BSU and Antigua and Barbuda’s Inspection nd Investigation Division, emerges a few weeks after video of what appears to be a somewhat similar siuation in the Suez Canal circulated on the internet. That partiular incident remains under investigation. Continue reading »

Oct 142014

wildeMost of us like to push the limits often because our experience tells us we can do so safely. Just because we can does not mean we should, a lesson from Ireland’s Marine Casualty Investigation Board in its report into the collision between two ro-ro ferries: Stena Europe and Oscar Wilde in the port of Rosslare.

At 17.45 on 26 October 2012  as Stena Europe approached Rosslare the vessel’s master took over as OOW and the Mate/Master briefed the bridge team on the intended approach to the berth. The OOW called Rosslare Harbour Port Control and confirmed a wind direction of 028° (T) and a wind speed between 29 and 35 knots. The fact that the vessel had the use of only 3 out of four engines was not reported to port control.

Another source for information on wind speed and direction Information of wind speed and direction was also available from an instrument installed by Stena Line on the breakwater; this transmitted the information by
radio to displays on the bridge wings of the Stena Europe. Continue reading »

Oct 092014

PSAlifeboatSparked by a freefall lifeboat incident nine years ago Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority will chew on comments regarding proposed new lifeboat safety rules over the next few months. The aim, says the PSA is “returning us to the level of safety we thought prevailed in 2005”.

Some 480 lifeboats may be affected and the offshor industry has alleged that the regulations could cost $10bn to implement. While the changes will apply to operations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, NCS, it is likely that PSA’s opposite number, the UK’s Health and Safety Authority, may review its own regulations on lifeboats. Continue reading »

Oct 092014

lsablurMAC has been contacted by the Head of Marine and HSSEQ of a major shipowner with concerns regarding the non-compliance with the LSA Code of freefall lifeboats being installed in a newbuild. The non-compliance presents a potential hazard which may result in death or injury under certain conditions and possible problems with PSC inspections and others.

Efforts are underway to resolve the situation with the lifeboat manufacturer however the same issue may arise with other lifeboat designs.

Despite type-approval and acceptance by by a major classification society the design does not comply with LSA Code Chapter IV which calls for at least 650mm free clearance in front of the backrest but in this design the distance is only about 150mm which under certain circumstances can be fatal to any person sitting in that seat.

In addition to the personal injury hazard the non-compliance may put the vessel at risk of detention in event of port state control inspection.

It is recommended that shipowners should ensure that lifeboats aboard their vessels are appropriately compliant and that Masters ensure that freefall lifeboats aboard their vessel are compliant and take necessary action in event of non-compliance.

Download Safety Alert


The following is the manufacturer’s proposed solution



Oct 072014

Top: Before, note six freeing ports. Bottom: Gone, with the help of a doubler plate. Result=sinking

Delaying making permanent repairs to the 40-year old oceanographic vessel Seaprobe, failing to comply with his vessel’s safety management system nor complying with mandatory load limits proved to be a poor decision by the ship’s owner. Fortunately no-one died but one crewmember was seriously injured, two lightlyinjured and the vessel was lost.

Built in 1974 and owned by Fugro-McClelland of Galveston, Texas, according to the Equasis database, US flagged and in class with the American Bureau of Shipping, the 818 tonne Seaprobe was a converted fishing vessel originally named Northern Empire. It was one of two geotechnical drillships operated by  Fugro-McClelland in the Gulf of Mexico.

The US National Transportation Safety board adds: “Contributing to the accident was the owner’s failure to comply with the vessel’s safety management system and mandatory load line regulations”.

In a Jones Act law suite it is alleged that “despite the years of notice, Fugro continually failed to properly maintain the vessel which subsequently led to the eventual sinking”. Fugro’s recruitment advertisements say “Fugro has a strong commitment to health, safety and the environment. ”

One may bear those statements in mind while reading the last days of the Seaprobe:

In late December 2012, the Seaprobe departed its oceanographic research operations off the coast of South America, en route to Morgan City, Louisiana. While in transit, the captain and crew noted seawater entering the engine room where the exhaust pipe for the starboard main engine exited through the engine room overhead.

The captain told investigators that he maneuvered the vessel to minimize water on the deck in the area of the water entry. Also, the crew made temporary repairs including fastening thin sheets of metal to the starboard-side exhaust trunk where the original metal was wasted. The exhaust trunk housed exhaust pipes from machinery in the engine room and ran forward horizontally above the deck to the stack, just aft of the deckhouse. To address the flooding, Saprobe diverted the Seaprobe to the Gulf Marine Repair (GMR) shipyard in Tampa, Florida.

On 4vanuary, 2013, the Seaprobe arrived at the GMR shipyard, where the vessel underwent temporary repairs. After the accident, the uS Coast Guard learned that shipyard personnel used doubler plates to temporarily repair the starboard main engine and generator exhaust pipes housed within the exhaust trunk. Portions of the exhaust trunk’s bottom plate were not renewed after this plate, some of its metal wasted, was removed to gain access to damaged sections of the exhaust pipes within the exhaust trunk.

The port engineer―a representative of the vessel owner who was at the GMR shipyard during the repair work―told investigators that he did not direct shipyard personnel to replace the bottom plate because he wanted to allow for further examination of the exhaust pipes during the vessel’s next scheduled drydock.

Shipyard personnel had asked the port engineer if he wanted the exhaust trunk repaired or left open, and, if the latter, the personnel would install a doubler plate over the six starboard-side freeing ports near the bottomless exhaust trunk to protect it from seawater. The port engineer believed, as an interim measure, “if the freeing ports were closed it would improve protection against seawater contact in that area.”

Shipyard personnel installed the doubler plate over the six freeing ports and left the exhaust trunk open to the atmosphere on the bottom.

An accident was now waiting to happen.

Seaprobe left Tampa about 1400 on 16 January, 2013, and continued toward Morgan City. Based on vessel draft estimates provided by the captain, the freeboard near the deck over the engine room measured 0.3 metres to 1 metre.

During the west-northwest transit toward Morgan City on the evening of 17 January, the Seaprobe experienced north winds at 26 knots, with gusts up to 34 knots, and seas of five metres. The high seas and the fact that six of the Seaprobe’s freeing ports were closed caused seawater to collect on deck. This water made its way into the open bottom of the exhaust trunk and downflooded into the engine room.

Seaprobe lost power to its main engines and generators about 2000 that evening. The chief engineer discovered water in the engine fuel and in the starboard-side day tank. He also saw water entering the engine space near the exhaust trunk. Initially he kept up with the flooding by using the oily water separator to pump the water to a holding tank.

About 2030, the chief engineer  restored the portside generator and about 2130 brought the portside main engine back online. However, over the next few hours, he noted that the flooding increased and used the bilge pumps to remove the incoming water. One of the deckhands also saw the engine room flooding and told investigators that every time the Seaprobe rolled in the high seas, a large amount of water entered the engine room on the starboard side.

About 0200 the next morning, 18 January, with the Seaprobe listing to starboard and upto  metre of water in the engine room, the chief engineer and the captain determined that the bilge pumps could not keep up with the flooding. They then shut the engine room’s watertight doors to prevent progressive flooding of adjacent areas. Shortlylater, they contacted the US Coast Guard.

Two liferafts were launched, the twelve crew boarded hem and were rescued by two USCG helicopters.

About 1800 that evening, the owner reported to the Coast Guard that the aircraft could not locate the vessel. The Seaprobe is presumed to have sunk sometime around 0315 on 18 January.

Safety Provisions

Although the Seaprobe was not required to undergo US Coast Guard inspection, two other safety strategies were in place: a load line certificate and a safety management system. Says the NTSB: “Because the vessel owner did not adhere to these strategies, they did not prevent the sinking”.

The Load Line Certificate

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) issued an international load line certificate for Seaprobe on 29 March, 2012.  Under the load line regulations in 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 42, the operators of the vessel should have told ABS before they installed doubler plates over the freeing ports and departed port without repairing the bottom of the exhaust trunk. Having a load line is contingent on weathertight integrity of the vessel above the freeboard deck. Blocking the drainage of water from the deck and operating at sea with openings to the engine room were changes to the conditions of the vessel requiring ABS to revisit the vessel and reassess the load line assignment. ABS, after examining the condition of the vessel and the operator’s proposal for permanent repairs, would have decided whether to allow the vessel to depart Tampa in the condition that it was.

CFR 42.07-55 (b) states that load line certificates may be canceled due to conditions such as closed freeing ports and wasted exhaust trunks. requiring ABS to revisit the vessel and reassess the load line assignment. ABS, after examining the condition of the vessel and the operator’s proposal for permanent repairs, would have decided whether to allow the vessel to depart Tampa in the condition that it was. CFR 42.07-55 (b) states that load line certificates may be canceled due to conditions such as closed freeing ports and wasted exhaust trunks.

These mandatory measures were not adhered to.


Seaprobe’s owner owner held a valid International Safety Management Code Document of Compliance and Safety Management Certificate issued by ABS. One of the four objectives of a safety management system is to ensure compliance with the mandatory rules and regulations when developing procedures for the safety management system.

The safety management system requires documents for vessel maintenance procedures, which are used to verify that all company vessels are maintained in conformity with relevant rules and regulations. Seaprobe owner’s failure to discuss the wasted exhaust trunk and closing of the freeing ports with ABS meets the definition of nonconformity under the safety management system.

The Cause

In its report the US NTSB concludes that the probable cause of the flooding and subsequent sinking of the Seaprobe was the decision of the vessel owner to delay making permanent repairs to the starboard-side exhaust trunk and covering six of the vessel’s freeing ports, leaving the Seaprobe susceptible to downflooding from boarding seas.

Contributing to the accident was the owner’s failure to comply with the vessel’s safety management system and mandatory load line regulations.

Seaprobe was subject to regulations found in 46 Code of Federal Regulations Part 3, which require the vessel owner to verify in writing every 2 years that the vessel operates as an oceanographic research vessel and is therefore not subject to inspection as a passenger, freight, or offshore supply vessel. An oceanographic research vessel of less than 300 gross tons does not require inspection.

As is all too often the case teh drive to minimise costs and maximise profits put seafarer’s lives on the line.

Download the NTSB report here.

Oct 062014

Untitled Much bandwidth has been expended on social media, including MAC’s Maritime Investigation group on LinkedIn, following the collision between the German-flagged Hapag-Lloyd Colombo Express and the Singapore-flagged Maersk Tanjong at the northern end of the Suez Canal on 29 September. Captured on a mobile phone, the incident caused serious disruption to canal operations, dunked several containers overboard, and put a 20 metre dent in the port side of Colombo Express.

No-one was hurt there was no environmental impact and both vessels were able to continue on to an anchorage to await recovery of the lost containers and investigators from the Suez Canal Authority.

Even at this early stage there may be lessons to be learned.

Continue reading »

Oct 052014

We are pleased to announce that Bob Couttie, administrator of Maritime Accident Casebook since 2006, has been appointed as one of twelve ambassadors for the joint confidential reporting programme of the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP) and the Nautical Institute’s Mariners’ Alerting and Reporting Scheme (MARS). The programme enables seafarers to report hazardous conditions, situations and accidents without fear of their identity being known.

Says Couttie: “Reading serious accident reports it is clear that in most cases there are unrecognised, unnoticed situations that either lead to an accident or show underlying problems that lead to accidents. Many seafarers are aware of these problems but have either reported them and been ignored, fear losing their jobs or just don’t know where to go to report it. This programme not only gives them someone to go to but will also protect their identities so they can report with confidence.

“We fully support the initiative and are exploring ways in which we can bring our own resources to bear on it. By reporting the incidents seafarer may stop an accident happening.”

While ambassadors themselves do not file reports they can advice on how to report. A list of ambassador can be downloaded here.

Click below to learn more