Dec 192010

VDR image of Ninanitu (arrowed) on African Zebra radar

Collisions like tangos, usually take two. So it was with the fishing vessel Ninanitu and the bulker African Zebra. There’s little new in Denmark’s Maritime Authority’s just released report into the collision, and subsequent sinking of Ninanitu but a certain lesson that, prehaps, it’s as important to be seen as to see and that old and hoary warning that assumptions are dangerous.

On 6 July, 2010, the skipper of Ninanitu saw African Zebra around two nautical miles off as assumed that it would pass astern. He reduced the volume of Channel 16 and settled down to watch the television on his bridge. He was alone because the only other crew member was in his cabin sleeping.

It is always unsafe to assume that you know what the other ship is going to do.

The higher your visibility the greater your chance of being seen. In this case an efficient radar reflector might have made the vessel easier to see on the radar of African Zebra.

As for African Zebra, in the meantime, after having his dinner, the master went to the bridge to check something not related to this incident.

The chief officer stood at the ARPA-radar, and the AB stood in starboard side of the
bridge looking out through the front windows. The chief officer changed the radar setting from 12 to 6 nm range. He did not change the settings for gain, sea and rain clutter.

No guard zone was set, which would have automatically acquired Ninanitu as a target and set off an alarm.

Ninanitu was hardly visible because of sea clutter, and after the changing of the radar setting from 12 to 6 nm, it was no longer visible.

The weather was clear with bright sunshine and there were many reflections in the water when looking westward, towards Ninanitu

When the master entered the bridge, he immediately saw, visually, a fishing vessel on an easterly course at a distance of 1½ cable on starboard bow. He asked the chief officer: “What happened?”, and the chief officer answered that he had not seen the fishing vessel. Neither had the AB seen the fishing vessel.

Efforts to avoid the collision failed and the fishing vessel made contact with African Zebra on starboard side at hold No. 4 in an angle of 45 – 60°.

Says DMA: “It is the Investigation Division’s assessment that a proper bridge discipline was not conducted on the bridge watch… lack of the usage of the radar’s ARPA function and adjustments of gain, sea and rain clutter on African Zebra was a contributing factor to the collision.

“It is the Investigation Division’s assessment that a proper lookout was not kept in African Zebra”.

Read the full report here.


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