Finland’s Accident Investigation Board has released its report into the collision between the fishing vessel Hendrik Senior and the ro-ro vessel Birka Exporter. Both vessels failed in this case to comply with the COLREGS, and as a result of complacency, two well equipped and modern ships collided in conditions of good visibility,
even though each knew a risk of collision existed. Bridge equipment was not used effectively and no lookout was present in either wheelhouse at the time.
At 05:29 UTC on 8 December 2008, the UK registered, Dutch operated, fishing vessel Hendrik Senior and the Finnish Ro-Ro cargo ship Birka Exporter collided in international waters approximately 17 NM off the Netherlands coast. There were no injuries and no significant pollution.
Hendrik Senior was on passage from Harlingen, in the Netherlands, to her regular fishing grounds in the North Sea. She was crossing the south-bound lane of the Vlieland Traffic Separation Scheme, near West Terschelling, on an approximately west north westerly course. Birka Exporter was on passage from Finland to Antwerp, heading approximately south south west in the south-bound lane. It was dark; environmental conditions were benign. Each vessel had seen the other, initially by radar and later by eye.
Hendrik Senior was the give way vessel; the watchkeeper saw Birka Exporter but did
not take early and substantial action to keep clear. Instead Hendrik Senior executed two consecutive starboard turns with a total heading change of 60 degrees towards the incoming vessel.
Birka Exporter was the stand on vessel, and this she did. However, she did not subsequently take appropriate avoiding action before the vessels had a head-on collision.
The evasive manoeuvre carried out by Hendrik Senior was commenced too late and with too small a course change in respect to the approach course chosen by the trawlers. An important observation from this accident is that if proper safety margins are not maintained a close-quarters situation can develop very quickly into an extremely serious one with possible catastrophic consequences.
Both vessels were extensively damaged; Hendrik Senior was later declared a constructive total loss. Birka Exporter diverted to Amsterdam for repairs.
The ice strengthened bulb of the Birka Exporter had the potential to cause severe damages on Hendrik Senior. This could have been the result, if the impact angle and its position had been only slightly different.
Assistance to Hendrik Senior was rendered by the Dutch lifeboat service, and a radar replay of the incident was recorded by the Netherlands Coastguard radar station.
Both vessels failed to abide by the COLREGS, and as a result of complacency, two well equipped and modern ships collided in conditions of good visibility, even though each knew a risk of collision existed. Bridge equipment was not used effectively and no seaman lookout was present in either wheelhouse at the time.
Previous safety studies have shown that poor lookout, too small passing distances and sometimes intentionally violated procedures and regulations have contributed to collisions.
The Investigators give recommendations to the owners of both vessels regarding the use of lookout on the bridge and the guidance of safe navigational watchkeeping including the use of navigational equipment and the interpretation of COLREGS.