It was not a pretty picture for the ro-ro freight ferry Norcape around Troon Harbour, Scotland on 26-27 November: Bad weather, a failed bowthruster, a damaged windlass and a seafarer injured as a line fouled a propeller, says the UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch, which has just released a report on the incident together with a safety flyer..
On 26-27 November 2011 the ro-ro freight ferry Norcape
suffered a number of accidents, including windlass damage,
An attempt to berth at Troon in the early hours of 26 November was thwarted by the strength of the wind and one of her two bow thrusters failing. The vessel then proceeded to anchorage, across the Firth of Clyde, off the Isle of Arran, but the weather conditions were too severe for her to remain there. While recovering her anchor, the windlass suffered a catastrophic failure and the anchor and cable had to be slipped to enable the vessel to get underway.
The vessel made a further attempt to berth at Troon on the evening of 27 November. The strength of the wind was again too great for the vessel to get alongside, and the decision was taken to abort and return to sea. However, as the master attempted this, Norcape was set into shallow water and grounded.
A small tug, which had been assisting the vessel during her arrival, was then secured to tow her into deeper water. During this manoeuvre the towline slipped off the tug’s towing hook, and Norcape’s crew were in the process of recovering the line when it became fouled in one of her propellers. This caused the line to be pulled violently over the side, striking and injuring one of Norcape’s crew.
The injured crewman was landed ashore for medical attention before a successful attempt was made to refloat the vessel with the aid of tugs. When the vessel had refloated she was towed out to sea without engine power, as it was not initially known which of her propellers had been fouled.
Once clear of the harbour, Norcape anchored to her remaining anchor, but in strong to gale force onshore winds this dragged. The starboard engine was then started and the vessel weighed anchor and returned to Larne. There, the fouled port
propeller was cleared by divers and the damage to the windlass was assessed.
So why did it get so messy?
Norcape had been operating on the Larne/Troon freight service since July 2011 but no guidelines had been developed to assist the crew in determining operational weather limits for berthing in Troon. The harbour authority in Troon had not been involved with the vessel’s owner in considering her operation in adverse weather conditions, and had not developed any guidelines for the use of tugs to assist Norcape berthing in adverse weather.
In its conclusions the MAIB says:
Crew were not aware of:
- the operational limits of the vessel’s bowthruster.
- the strength of the vessel’s anchoring equipment.
- Passage planning – abort position was not used as a formal trigger to review entry to port.
- Bridge team’s situational awareness was compromised by lack of information flow to the conning station.
- Incident Management team, ashore, required a more proactive approach to assist on-board decision making.
- No harbour authority towage or wind speed guidelines in place for Troon .
- Absence of a compulsory pilotage regime in Troon meant bridge team did not benefit from local knowledge exchange with harbour master.