When the fishing vessel Moyuna grounded on rocks on 21 November 2011 while approaching Ardglass Harbour she became a hard-taught lesson in navigation. An experienced skipper navigating by eye looking for a green light that wasn’t there and following a historic track on a plotter lost positional awareness at night.
It would have been wiser to use the sectored white light on the North Pier which could have guided him safely but he wasn’t looking for it and it was not marked clearly on the chart plotter.
The green light, the Ardtole Beacon, had gone out that day and the harbourmaster had issued an alert by VHF through the Belfast Coastguard but Moyuna was out of range. The skipper was also following a track previously plotted on the track plotter. Such plots are not necessarily good ones to follow – investigators found a recorded plot that actually passed across the Ardglass Quay.
Says the Marine Accident Investigation Branch report: “Although Moyuna’s skipper held a Class 2, Limited (Fishing Vessel) Certificate of Competency, he had gained this 29 years before the accident, and the navigational skills he would have been taught at that time were clearly not being applied during Moyuna’s approach into Ardglass”.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it, it’s a good idea to go back to the basics.
The MAIB report concludes:
• Moyuna grounded because the skipper lost positional awareness.
• The skipper unduly relied on following an historical track on one of the track plotters and on his his ability to identify a single navigational aid: the green light on the Ardtole beacon.
• The skipper was unaware the green light on the Ardtole beacon was inoperative, as Moyuna was probably out of VHF radio range when navigational warnings were transmitted.
• If the skipper had consulted an Admiralty chart or pilot book, it should have been apparent that the harbour had a sectored light that could and should have been used for entry to Ardglass at night.
• The exposed position of the Ardtole beacon has made it difficult to mount a light, and to inspect and maintain it.
• Given the unreliable nature of the Ardtole beacon light and the over reliance by some harbour users on its operation, a review of the suitability and effectiveness of the navigational aids provided in Ardglass Harbour would be appropriate.
• The skipper’s actions following the grounding, including his decision to abandon the vessel, were in accordance with best practice. However, in his haste, he forgot to transmit a DSC alert before sending the distress message.