Mar 262010

Top: Saetta Bottom: Conger

Britain’s MAIB says that while the accident record of ship-to-ship transfers remains good and mostly minor their frequency remains a cause of concern. The comment is made in MAIB’s report on the 10 August 2009 collision between the tankers Saetta and Conger, the third such incident in six weeks.

On 10 August 2009, the Greek registered tanker Saetta and the Marshall Islands’ registered tanker Conger collided when completing a ship to ship (STS) transfer operation off Southwold, Suffolk. Saetta’s starboard lifeboat and davit were damaged. Conger was undamaged and there were no injuries and no

The collision occurred at very slow speed, and resulted from the failure of Conger’s main engine to start as the vessels separated.

Both manoeuvred to try and avoid a collision, but they were very close when the engine failed and the action taken was not effective. The response to the engine failure, and poor communications, were also contributory factors.

The number of STS operations off Southwold had increased considerably in 2009
and this was the third collision between ships involved in transfers in the area within a six-week period. A further two collisions have occurred since.

Although STS operations worldwide are reported to have a good safety record and the accidents off Southwold have been relatively minor, their frequency is cause for concern.

The Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) has initiated the development
of operational standards for STS service providers and occupational standards for STS superintendents, which will be published by mid 2010. In co-operation with the International Chamber of Shipping, OCIMF also intends to revise the STS Transfer
Guide, to include operations between gas and chemical tankers, and advice on risk assessment and manpower requirements. In view of this action and the action taken by Fender Care Marine (FCM) and the operators of Saetta and Conger, no recommendations are considered necessary.

The MAIB conclusion are:

1. When Conger’s main engine failed to start when ordered ahead, there was no procedure in place for the crew to follow. This possibly led to the engine remaining stopped for about 4.5 minutes.

2. Prompt and effective action following the loss of Conger’s main engine was hindered by two significant breakdowns in communications. It is essential during STS operations, that account is taken of the language and communication channels to be used and the roles of the persons involved when determining the composition and organisation of bridge teams.

3. The unmooring operation and departure manoeuvre was not properly planned or briefed, and there was an over-reliance on checklists.

4. The provision of operational standards for service providers would help to simplify the vetting process for the oil majors and would provide service providers with a benchmark.

5. The service provider had not taken any steps to monitor the hours of work and rest of its superintendents, or assessed the superintendent’s performance annually as suggested in the STS transfer guide.

6. The responsibilities of a superintendent in STS operations are wide-ranging, time-consuming, and demanding, and vary according to the type of transfer conducted. The risk of overload could be reduced by the provision of a second superintendent or an assistant.

7. There are no occupational standards defined for superintendents or masters in control of STS operations.

8. It is important that the ICS / OCIMF STS Transfer Guide (Petroleum) is reviewed and amended to fully reflect current operations worldwide and to take into account the lessons learned from this and other recent accidents.

The full report is available here.

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