Lack of training and drills in loss-of-steering response and insufficient bridge manning in a high-traffic zone contributed to the 3 July, 2009, collision between the Norwegian-flagged chemical tanker Sundstraum and the Malta-flagged dry cargo vessel Kapitan Lus says a joint investigation report into the incident. Why the vessel lost steering has not been determined but were probably due to the fact that attempts were made to regain control of the situation by repeated changes in the set heading on the autopilot say investigators.
Says the joint investigation by Norway’s Accident Investigation Bureau, Denmark’s Maritime Administration and Transport Malta: “At 1316 hours local time (LT) on 3 July 2009, the Norwegian vessel Sundstraum and the Malta registered vessel Kapitan Lus collided in the Drogden Channel off Copenhagen. Sundstraum was on route from Tjelbergodden in Norway to Stettin in Poland with a cargo of 3707 tonnes of methanol.
“The vessel was southbound in the Drogden Channel, with the officer of the watch manning the bridge. Kapitan Lus was on its way from St Petersburg in Russia to Le Havre in France with a cargo of 4193 tonnes of aluminium and 182 tonnes of uranium oxide. The vessel was northbound in Drogden and the bridge crew consisted of the Master, the officer of the watch, a Danish pilot and the helmsman. There was good visibility and no wind or seas worth mentioning in the area.
“At about 1310 hours LT, the Sundstraum began to make a number of course changes to both starboard and port (oscillating movements) which just over 6 minutes later ended in a collision with Kapitan Lus at the northern end of the Drogden Channel. There were no injuries to personnel or damage to the environment. The Sundstraum only sustained minor damage, while the Kapitan Lus got water ingress into a cargo hold and developed a list. Both vessels were detained by the Danish authorities until the necessary investigations had been made and the necessary steps taken to
safeguard Danish interests in assuring a safe onward passage for both vessels.
“The investigation did not reveal any features of the steering or technical faults in the steering gear on board the Sundstraum which explain the oscillatory movement pattern that developed. However, weaknesses were revealed with respect to the operator’s framework conditions for safe operation (safety management system). Two safety recommendations are made in this connection. The one concerns use of a pilot in Øresund, the other concerns practical training of the crew for scenarios that involve problems with and/or loss of steering.”
During the passage through the Hollender Deep and down to Drogden, the bridge on
Sundstraum was manned only by the navigator of the watch. The ship’s Master was on
the bridge from time to time. The fact that the vessel was sailing with one man on the bridge in a narrow, shallow, densely trafficked area is not in compliance with the
operator’s safety management system, national and international requirements or
The operator’s safety management system BPM (Bridge Procedures Manual) clearly requires increased manning of the bridge during passage to and from harbour and in trafficked waters. Both the master and the OOW had long experience and both had sailed through the area with similar vessels earlier, and were thus comfortable with the passage. That they chose to sail through the area with reduced bridge manning and without a pilot was due, in the view of investigators, not to the fact that they lacked resources, but that they both had experience with this passage and that previous passages had taken place without unforeseen events occurring. They therefore saw no reason to sail with more than the officer of the watch on the bridge.