Lack of ECDIS-specific training, poorly placed bridge equipement and a master’s lack of support for an inexperienced third officer played key roles in the grounding of CSL Thames, a Maltese registered self-discharging bulk carrier, which grounded briefly in the Sound of Mull on 9 August 2011. An investigation report has now been published by the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch.
At 1026 (UTC +1) on 9 August 2011, CSL Thames, a Maltese registered self-discharging bulk carrier, grounded briefly in the Sound of Mull while on passage from Glensanda to Wilhelmshaven. The vessel sustained bottom damage to her hull, including a 3-metre fracture to one of her water ballast deep tanks, which flooded. There were no reported injuries or pollution.
The MAIB investigation found that CSL Thames ran aground after the third officer had altered the vessel’s course to starboard of the planned track to avoid another vessel. He did not notice that the alteration would take CSL Thames into shallow water, and the audio alarm on the electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) that should have alerted him to the impending danger was inoperative. Further, the master’s and other watchkeepers’ knowledge of the vessel’s ECDIS was insufficient and therefore no-one within the bridge team questioned the absence of the ECDIS audio alarm, or recognised that the system’s safety contour setting was inappropriate for the planned voyage.
CSL Thames was fitted with two ECDIS units that were used as the primary means of navigation, thus removing the need for paper charts to be carried. All bridge officers, including the master, had completed a generic ECDIS training course in the Philippines.
No training or familiarisation on the type of ECDIS fitted on board CSL Thames had been provided by the ship’s management company (Alfa Ship & Crew Management GmbH) or by previous employers. There is currently no mandatory requirement for bridge officers to receive such ‘equipment specific’ training, and reliance is placed on the vessel’s technical management company to provide familiarisation training in compliance with the ISM Code. However, for UK registered vessels, the MCA, through its Marine Information Note 405 2, has clarified what generic and ‘equipment specific’ training it regards as acceptable. The company had not provided any instructions or guidance on
the use of the ECDIS fitted to CSL Thames.
Alfa Ship & Crew Management GmbH has taken a number of actions designed to prevent a similar accident in the future. Additionally, the MAIB has issued a recommendation to the company designed to ensure the introduction of written instructions and guidance on the use of ECDIS and emergency preparedness, and measures to verify that these will be properly implemented throughout its fleet.