Most of us like to push the limits often because our experience tells us we can do so safely. Just because we can does not mean we should, a lesson from Ireland’s Marine Casualty Investigation Board in its report into the collision between two ro-ro ferries: Stena Europe and Oscar Wilde in the port of Rosslare.
At 17.45 on 26 October 2012 as Stena Europe approached Rosslare the vessel’s master took over as OOW and the Mate/Master briefed the bridge team on the intended approach to the berth. The OOW called Rosslare Harbour Port Control and confirmed a wind direction of 028° (T) and a wind speed between 29 and 35 knots. The fact that the vessel had the use of only 3 out of four engines was not reported to port control.
Another source for information on wind speed and direction Information of wind speed and direction was also available from an instrument installed by Stena Line on the breakwater; this transmitted the information by
radio to displays on the bridge wings of the Stena Europe.
Stena Europe turned off the pier end with the intention of reversing close past No 4 Berth into No 3 Berth. In the event there were some small fishing boats on the inner corner of No 4 Berth and the vessel approached the berth at a wider angle from mid way between No 2 and No 4 Berths. Mooring lines were run from aft and the two thrusters were being used to bring the bow alongside. At about 18:15hrs the wind speed was observed to be 45 knots on the readout on the bridge wing and the thrusters were both indicating full power but not moving the vessel alongside. The Master attempted to use the engines to turn the vessel and the brakes were put on the winches and the stern mooring area was evacuated. The strain on the stern ropes caused them to run out and come off the winches. Some damage was done to rope guards and pipe work in the mooring area by the ends of the ropes whipping off the winches.
Meanhile The master of the Oscar Wilde, which was at Berth No. 2, has been watching the berthing manoeuvres. He realised that Stena Europe was drifting towards his vessel and that contact was likely. He alerted the engine room to close all watertight doors and to stop bunkering operations then called
the crew to emergency stations, and detailed an officer to take times of any contacts.
Stena Europe drifted across the dock towards the Oscar Wilde Despite the use of engines and thrusters the drift continued and at 18:21hrs the Stena Europe let go the starboard anchor and rested on the bottom to slow down the rate of drift. The first contact of the vessels appeared to occur at this time as the bow of the Stena Europe touched the upper hull of the Oscar Wilde”. She made two more contacts with the Oscar Wilde at 18:24hrs on the bridge wing and at 18:26hrs on the starboard shoulder. At this time the thrusters became effective, due to a combination of thrust against the hull of the Oscar Wilde and a slight decrease in wind speed.
The anchor was raised and the Stena Europe” manoeuvred clear of the Oscar Wilde and the end of No 2 Berth. She was now close to No 1 Buoy to the west of the harbour and manoeuvred astern close to No 1 Berth which was vacant. Once clear of No 1 Berth the vessel proceeded to sea and slow steamed in the planned heavy weather route and awaited availability of No 2 Berth after the departure of the Oscar Wilde.
The most serious damage was a tear in steel work plating on the corner of the joining plate structure of the flat side to the front accommodation plating of the Oscar Wilde. That it wasn’t worse is very much down to the master’s professional pro-active response even though h was a static target,
Senior Masters Standing Orders for the Stena Europe set operational limts for Rosslare with the wind from the NNW-ESE was 25 to 27 knots with 4 main engines. There were also guidelines in respect of the loss of one engine or one thruster “depending upon wind direction, the operating limits may be reduced as the Master sees fit”.
Despite the Standing Orders which gave 27 knots as the maximum wind speed when the wind was from the NNE the Master/Mate with the Master acting as
OOW proceeded to attempt to berth the vessel when port control had advised that the wind speed was between 29 and 35 knots from a direction 028° ENE.
During the investigation the Senior Master and the Master and the Mate/Master on board that voyage were questioned as to the operational limits being used. It emerged that the Masters considered the limits too low as they had been initiated for a previous vessel which was considered less manoeuvrable and had
less power on main engines and thrusters. The Masters stated that they had successfully berthed the current vessel at wind speeds higher than the operational limits in the standing orders. The authority for such action was supported by information contained in “Internal Directives” from the previous Senior Master formulated in 2007. That the “Internal Directives” had been interpreted in this manner and that the vessel was being operated operating above the parameters in the Senior Masters standing orders was not known or approved by Stena Lines safety manager.
Stena Line carried out itsown investigation and found that remote readout of wind speed and direction from the breakwater was reading low and that VDR on the Stena Europe did not show a radar picture or the fact that the vessel was operating on only 3 main engines. Both defects are being rectified by Stena Line.
Rosslare port has now set operational limits for ferries and will deny entry if these are exceeded.