“He first realized that the ship was aground when a man he did not know came on the bridge.”
So says the Danish Maritime Authority report on the grounding of the containership Karin Schepers on 22 March 2009. The only good news in the incident is, according to the report: “The passage planning was found to be conducted in a satisfactory manner.”
In this case the ‘stranger on the bridge’ was a pilot from another ship who had gone on board to investigate why numerous attempts to raise the vessel failed. The failed because the chief officer was asleep with a minimum of “1,19 per thousand ethanol. The master, who should have taken the watch an hour and a half before the grounding was asleep in his cabin with “a blood alcohol content of 1,765 per thousand with a minimum value of 1,67 per thousand ethanol”.
Fatigue may also have exacerbated the effects of alcohol.
There was no lookout on the bridge and the bridge navigational watch alarm system, BNWA, was off.
After several course changes were missed and the vessel appeared to be NUC several attempts were made to communicate with her:
0853 VTS-Sound was calling constantly by VHF on channels 16 and 71 as it was obvious that the ship was following a wrong track.
0902 Pilot boat JUPITER tried to contact the ship by VHF channel 16 and 71 and by blasting the whistle. It circled around the ship while it tried to make contact. Shortly after the pilot boat approached the aft ship blasting the whistle almost continuously.
0903 Lyngby Radio tried by all means to make contact. – The attempts were ongoing until the grounding. No response was heard.
0933 A rescue helicopter from the Royal Danish Air Force arrived.
0934 From the helicopter it was observed that a person was sleeping on the bridge. No-one else was to be seen.
0935 The helicopter observed that the ship was aground.
0940 A Danish pilot boarded the ship.
Despite the foregoing, none of the crew of Karin Schepers, which included a 2nd officer, three able bodied seamen and two ordinary seamen, reacted or investigated the cause of the disturbance.
Says the report: “It is remarkable that the watch keeping AB or other crewmembers did not react to the turmoil around the ship and notified the master or watch keeping officer before the ship grounded. There seems to be lack of communication and cooperation on board”.
DMA investigators concluded that the causes of the incident were:
• The chief officer was incapacitated due to intoxication.
• The chief officer fell asleep during his watch.
• There was no look out on the bridge.
• The Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System was off.
• No crewmembers reacted on the various attempts to draw attention to the
dangerous path the ship was taking.
– The shipping company is recommended to find ways to ensure that the Drug & Alcohol Policy (Marlow Navigation Co. Ltd Drug and Alcohol policy) is complied with.
– The shipping company is recommended to introduce procedures ensuring that watch keeping on the bridge always is optimal in the prevailing circumstances and conditions including the use of lookout and Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System.
– The shipping company is recommended to promote safety management on board their ships by enhancing communication in order to make crewmembers think pro-actively and react in unusual situations.