Lysblink Seaways, a DFDS-managed UK-flagged 7,500 DWT general cargo ship grounded in the West Highlands at about 0150 on 18 February while on passaqe from Belfast to Skogn. Norway. The nine-member crew is still aboard and a lifeboat from RNLI Tobermory is in attendance.
Voyage aboard a sail training vessel should be a challenging, life-affirming experience but too often cost-cutting and tap-dancing around safety provisions result in loss and tragedy. Such appears to have been the case with the grounding and write-off of the Sail Trainong Vessel Astrid off Ireland’s southern coast, the investigation report of which has been released by the Eire Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB.
TSB’s report on the contact and grounding incident involving the general cargo vessel Claude A. Desgagnes as it entered Iroquois Lock in the St. Lawrence Seaway, is a tale of sticky decisions, poor communications and whose-in-charge confusion. One lesson is that once you’ve made a decision, keep in constantly under review.
Here’s the short version:
As the vessel proceeded downriver, the master and pilot spoke, but did not develop a shared understanding of the manoeuvre to be used in the approach to the Iroquois Lock. While the pilot had explained his plan to dredge the anchor to the officer of the watch (OOW) earlier in the voyage, the details of the plan were not relayed to the master when he arrived on the bridge.
All the key ingredients for a navigational accident were in place long before the Malta-flagged oil and chemical tanker Ovit grounded on the Varne Bank in the Dover Strait in the early morning darkness of 18 September 2013. The report on the incident from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, identifies several layers of factors, not all of them on the bridge of the Ovit, that led to the grounding without which it would not have occurred.
The vessel was equipped with a Maris 900 ECDIS supplied and installed by STT Marine Electronics in Istanbul. An installation certificate issued on 1 April 2011 indicates that all systems had been properly configured and tested. They had not.
Looking out of the window was not really an option for the pilot conducting the 28, 372 GRT containership Cap Blanche on the Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada, on 25 January this year. With fog reducing visibility to 150 metres he could not even see the bow of the 221.62 LOA vessel, but he did have his trusty portable pilotage unit, PPU, which he relied upon exclusively for navigation and connected it to the vessel’s AIS. But the AIS had a secret, one which put Cape Blanche on the silt at the river’s Steveston Bend.
The accident report from Canada’s Transport Safety Board brings to light a little known aspect of navigation by GPS yet one that might not have led to the grounding had the pilot not been essentially left to his own devices even when his actions conflicted with the vessel passage plan.
The PPU had a predictor function that projects the vessel’s future position by performing geometric calculations based on the vessel’s current rate of turn, position, heading, course over ground, COG, and speed over the ground, SOG. The COG and SOG are derived from GPS values that continuously fluctuate, even when the vessel maintains constant speed and course due to inherent errors and inaccuracies in the GPS. To stabilize these values, a GPS smooths these inputs to provides the user with a more stable COG and SOG.
One can often see the GPS fluctuations on a GPS-equipped tablet computer or smartphone.
At 1521 on 3 January 2014 the Liberia registered liquefied gas carrier, Navigator Scorpio, ran aground on Haisborough Sand in the North Sea. The vessel was undamaged by the grounding and there were no injuries or pollution; 2.5 hours later, it refloated on the rising tide. The investigation found that the vessel ran aground in restricted waters after the officer of the watch had become distracted and lost positional awareness. The passage plan was incomplete and the significant effects of wind and strong tidal streams had not been properly taken into account.
This podcast has a special place in MAC’s heart – it was the very first one ever broadcast. At the time we did not have a video production capability or a recording studio so the sound quality may be least than ideal but the lessons remain very current.
An exhausted Captain; single watch-keeping; a warm, cozy bridge at night; the heavy traffic of the Kiel Canal, and pirated navigational software. If you think that sounds like a recipe for disaster, you’d be absolutely right.
Listen To The Podcast
Take one fatigued pilot, add cultural power distance, loss of situational awareness, a dash of unimplemented Bridge Resource Management , inadequate master-pilot exchange and passage planning and there’s a very good change of something unpleasant happening. TSB Canada’s investigation report into grounding of the bulker Tundra off Sainte Anne-de-Sorel, Quebec, is an interesting collection of what-not-to-does.
Groundings in which pilots are involved are among the most expensive. A study by the International Group of P&I Clubs estimated that although groundings only account for 3 per cent of incidents resulting insurance claims of more than $100,000 they accounted for 35 per cent of the cost of claims at a cost of $7.85m for each incident. That compares with collisions, which accounted for 24 per cent of incidents and costs, and fixed and floating object claims which accounted for 64 per cent of incidents but 33 per cent of claims.
There’s money in them thar ills.
When the pilot boarded the Tundra he did not have up-to-date information regarding the buoys he intended to use for navigation. One buoy has been removed, which was not necessarily going to be problem since the next buoy had distinctly different characteristics than the missing device and the pilot would have recognised the situation and adjusted accordingly. He did not have a documented passage plan – his was in his laptop.
MAC, reading the MAIB report on the grounding of the MV Danio, suspects that the fatigue issue will stay with us until the results cost more than the cure. When ship operators and financially amenable, often corrupt, flag states stop objecting to measures that will ensure that exhausted ships’ officers do not take watches, on their own at night and turning a blind eye to falsified rest records nothing will be done until a major catastrophic, devastating event occurs, something of Titanic equivalence, only then, driven by public and political pressure will there be substantive effort made to resolve the problem.
When that happens there will be complaints from the industry about trial by publicity. The industry will have deserved that trial and will, in the public domain, quite rightly, be found guilty of negligence and profiteering. Shipowners and flag states will, again quite rightly, not merely be found wanting but criminally negligent. No longer will they be able to shrug their shoulders and blame in on the masters who acceded to them.
Nothing was unusual or unpredictable about the grounding of Danio in an environmentally sensitive area in which a pollution event could have been devastating to wildlife and the economy. It was a tick the box affair as foreseeable as a sunrise.