Apr 162014

ChristosXXIIPerhaps there are times to save money on hiring a pilot in unfamiliar waters but this was not one of them. The master of the Greek-registered tug Christos XXII had little experience in tidal waters and his company procedures were of little help when he decided to save on pilotage by anchoring in the tidal waters outside Tor Bay to investigate a dangerous list in the towed vessel Emsstrom, to judge by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Board report on the subsequent collision between tug and tow.

The result of the money-saving measurese and lack of appropriate company procedures was the sinking of the Emsstrom and the holing and flooding of Christos XXII. And a lot more expense.

Emsstrom was a former German fisheries protection vessel built in 1968. When picked up by Christos XXII it had been sitting on the bottom alongside a pier in Leer, Germany. It was only towed off the bottom that a starboard list of up to 10 degrees was noticed. The vessel was reballasted to bring her upright using a salvage pump from the tug and Christos XXII took her in tow initially for Harlingen in the Netherlands then the Mediterranean where Emsstrom would be transferred to a second tow with a final destination of Aliaga, Turkey.

As tug and tow passed through the English Channel Emsstrom again took on a starboard list of about 10 degrees.  The master of Christos XXII requested permission to enter Tor Bay to seek shelter and investigate the list. When the coastguard told him that he was not just seeking shelter but also to investigate the list of the tow and would therefore need a pilot the master decided to anchor in the deep water anchorage outside Tor Bay to save on pilot fees.

By now, darkness had fallen. With the tow at 100 metres the master brought Christos XXII to a stop whiuloe his tow was downtide of the tow. Emsstrom was now about 60 metres away. He dropped the port anchor, which swung his vessel portside to the tow and walked out 1.5 shackles of chain and used the searchlight to locate Emsstrom.

Driven by the tide Emsstrom was now bearing down to t-bone Christos XXII. The master immediately put the bow thruster to starboard, the starboard engine full ahead and the port engine full astern in an attempt to move Christos XXII sideways away from Emsstrom and avoid a collision. However, at 2058, Emsstrom struck Christos XXII just aft of midships on the port side.

As the master attempted to manoeuvre clear, the motorman called the bridge from the engine room by telephone, informing him that there was major water ingress to the engine room. It was found that Emsstrom’s bow had penetrated Christos XXII’s shell plating below the waterline in way of the hydraulic motors in the engine room which was now flooding.
From then on it got expensive, with Emsstrom sinking the next day.
While it is easy to blame the master entirely for this case – he’d forgotten to account for tides in his anchoring plan he didn’t get much support from the company, either, who knew his intentions either. Says the MAIB report:
“Had the master taken a pilot and entered Tor Bay to investigate the list on Emsstrom, the subsequent anchoring would have been better prepared and therefore not have resulted in a collision. However, to avoid the expense of taking a pilot he decided to investigate Emsstrom’s condition without entering the bay.
“The master contacted the company as soon as he became concerned about the list on Emsstrom. However, there were no instructions or guidance in the company’s procedures regarding the use of senior, experienced staff from the management company to assist masters in planning their response to crisis situations such as this. Given the limited bridge team on board
Christos XXII and the dynamic nature of the situation, input from such a crisis cell, would have enabled the master to discuss the situation and develop a safe plan for assessing the cause of the list on Emsstrom.
“Had such support been available a more complete anchoring plan may have been developed that would have taken full
consideration of the tidal conditions.










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