When Miroslaw Pozniak, master of the general cargo vessel Union Moon was found four times over the legal limit for alcohol as well as with failing to keep a proper lookout and jailed for a year after colliding with the ro-ro ferry Stena Feronia it was not time to close the book on the incident. The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, has now published its report on the incident, which identifies other factors that contributed to the $1.5m accident.
Pozniak certainly earned the bulk of the liability as the judge at Downpatrick Crown Court made it clear: “This sentence makes it clear that the following of the regulations, both in relation to alcohol and also in relation to the charting and proper adherence to accepted routes, is of vital importance. The ending of your 30 year career and this sentence effectively demonstrate that”.
However, even with a drunken master it is possible that an effective bridge team might have avoided the incident. One function of a team is to act as an error trap, to ensure that a mistake of omission or commission by one of the team does not propagate into a serious accident.
Says the MAIB: “At 1858 on 7 March 2012, the outbound general cargo vessel Union Moon collided with the inbound ferry Stena Feronia, in the vicinity of the fairway buoy that marks the harbour limit of Belfast Harbour. Both vessels suffered major structural
damage; however, there were no injuries or pollution and each vessel managed to proceed into port without assistance.
Once alongside in Belfast, both vessels were visited by officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who breathalysed the bridge teams. Union Moon’s master was found to have an alcohol level of 123μg of alcohol per 100ml of breath, in breach of the permitted maximum of 35μg of alcohol per 100ml of breath. He was arrested and, on 31 May 2012, was sentenced
to 1 year’s imprisonment for breaching the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003.
“The investigation found that although Union Moon’s master had been under the influence of alcohol and had altered course to port resulting in a collision course with Stena Feronia, several other factors contributed to the accident, including:
• A lack of clear guidance regarding traffic flow around the fairway buoy.
• No action taken by the bridge teams of either vessel to prevent a closequarters situation from developing.
• Action taken on board Stena Feronia to avoid collision.
• Sub-standard VHF communications.
Belfast Harbour has reviewed the accident with its Safety, Environmental and Security Committee, harbourmasters, Vessel Traffic Services staff and a representative of the Belfast pilots. It has taken measures to ensure its required radio procedures are followed, and has changed the point at which pilots disembark outbound vessels. As part of its comprehensive review of port operations, which was ongoing at the time of the accident, Belfast Harbour has since laid four new buoys which address the pinch point at the fairway buoy, introduced new routeing advice for mariners approaching Belfast Harbour, updated its Navigational Risk
Assessment, and incorporated the findings of this report into its regular programme of Vessel Traffic Services emergency training.
Northern Marine Management Ltd has issued a fleet guidance notice to its masters, reminding them of the importance that all deck officers have a clear understanding of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and of the
manoeuvring characteristics of their vessels.
Continental Ship Management AS has, inter alia, reviewed the manning levels of its vessels and issued a circular letter to its fleet to reiterate its instructions on watchkeeping, including the need to ensure the bridge is manned by an additional
lookout during the hours of darkness.
Northern Marine Management Ltd has been recommended to amend its safety management system to provide clarity on the roles and responsibilities of the bridge team when a Pilotage Exemption Certificate holder is acting solely as a pilot.
Other recent accident in with alcohol is claimed to have played a part are the grounding in February 2011, of the the UK registered feeder container vessel K-Wave 13 miles east of Malaga. The bridge was unmanned at the time of the grounding, but 4 hours earlier had been the venue for a birthday party for one of the officers and in August 2011, the Antigua and Barbuda registered container vessel Karin Schepers grounded on the Cornish coast, UK, while on passage from Cork to
Rotterdam. The subsequent investigation found that the master had probably been taking alcohol prior to falling asleep on watch.