If you see a maritime accident investigator with a flat forehead it’s due to them bsnging their heads against brick walls because some lessons just don’t seem to get through. The contact of the 10,000 tonnes Dutch-flagged containership Flevodijk with a sea wall in Japan thanks to a fatigued officer alone on the bridge, really is one of those head-banging cases, as an investigation report by the Japan Transport Safety Bureau shows.
Putting a sleepy watchkeeper alone on the bridge at night without a dedicated lookout, with the ship on autopilot in busy waters is not wise. An officer asleep in a chair does not meet the requirements of Colregs Rule 5: “every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.”
Officer A, as he is called in the JTSB report went to the bridge at 0045 on 19 August 2011. He was told by the master that the ship would arrive in the Osaka Area of Hanshin Port at around 0630 that day and was instructed to wake him up one hour before arriving at Osaka and to wake him up if something arose that Officer A could not deal with. At 0100 he took over the watch from the chief office and was left alone on the bridge, one of three officers who rotated four-hour watches.
The master considered that there was no need for a dedicated look-out in addition to Officer A because there was good visibility and only a few fishing vessels were in sight when he left the bridge. In his 24 years of experience as a master he had never experienced an OOW falling asleep.
Says the JTSB report: “…the Seto Inland Sea including the Harima Nada Sea where they passed through at that time is one of the most sea-traffic congested marine areas.”
Initially Officer A remained standing. There was good visibility, some ships were sighted but no fishing vessels.
Around the northern coast of the Inageshima Island, Takamatsu City, Officer A set the ship’s speed to approximately 15.5 knots in order to adjust the time to arrive in port. When the ship passed the No. 1 Light Buoy in the Harima Nada Traffic scheme, there were no nearby ships. So far it was an uneventful watch.
At around 0220, with the autopilot course set at about 068° true toward the west entrance of the Akashi Strait some 34 nautical miles ahead, Officer A began to feel drowsy. He walked around the bridge for a while to relieve his drowsiness.then sat on the chair in front of the No. 1 radar on the starboard side. He had never fallen asleep on watch before and was confident that he would not do so now.
After some 20 minutes he entered into what the JTSB report refers to as “a twilight state”. His last memory was of passing the No. 4 Light Buoy in the Harima Nada Traffic scheme, but not the No. 5 Light Buoy. Flevodijk was now an unguided maritime missile in busy waters aimed at the sea wall on the northern side of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge while he slept.
There was no bridge navigational watch alarm fitted to the vessel, it was built before July 1, 2011, therefore, says JTSB: “it is considered that there was no responsibility to install any Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System at the time the accident occurred..”
He was woken possibly more than an hour later by being thrown out of the chair as the vessel’s bulbous bow slammed into the sea wall.
The ship was damaged around the bulbous bow along with cracks, recesses and scratches including
broken holes, in addition to water flooding of the forepeak tank. Three pillars were loston the sea wall and partial damage occurred on another two pillars.
The vessel had loaded 242 containers, at Lianyungang Port, the People’s Republic of China, at around 2055 16 August 16, 2011. Officer A’s watch and rest patterns were:
4 hours from 0100 to 0500 then another 4 hours from 1300 to 1700 on 17 August.
6 hours from 0100 to 0700 and another 6 hours from 1300 to 1900 on 18 August
He took the final watch at 0100 on the morning of 19 August before contacting the seawall at 04.39, about 20 minutes before his watch was to end dramatically .
Officer A told the JTSB that he slept for at least 4 hours between watches.
Since the incident Officer A has undertaken to call the master if he feels drowsy on watch and the. master has undertaken to ensure that a lookout is posted in addition to the OOW while traversing the Seto Sea.
Warsash Maritime Academy Video on the Horizon Project on Seafarer Fatigue
Incidents and Posts
Warsash Horizon Project on Seafarer Fatigue: