In its recently published Casebook containing safety lessons learned from maritime incidents, the Swedish Club describes a collision of a container ship after grounding in a busy anchorage.
In an evening with good visibility, vessel A, a 2,470 TEU container vessel, was approaching port. The Master had received orders to arrive at the pilot station at 20:40, which was one hour earlier than previously planned. To make the new ETA, the speed had to be increased from 10 knots to 14 knots.
Instead of following the passage plan, the Master decided to take a shortcut through an anchorage.
On the bridge was the Third Officer, who was the OOW, the Master who had the conn, and the Chief Officer who was monitoring traffic both on the radar and visually. He was also talking on the VHF. An AB was manually steering whilst the Third Officer was filling out the logbook. The two ARPA radars were in north up, relative motion and the radars were switched between 3 NM and 6 NM range. The CPA alarm was set to 0.3 NM.
The Second Officer who was the navigation officer, had already entered the waypoints for the original passage plan into both ARPA radars and the ECDIS, and a cross-track error alarm of 1 cable had been set up.
During the approach, he was not on the bridge and the passage plan was not updated for the shortcut as the Master did not consider it was necessary.
Timeline of events leading to the collision
- C -15 minutes: During the approach to the pilot station there were two smaller vessels ahead of vessel A that would be overtaken on their starboard side. Shortly after the vessels had been overtaken the Master ordered an alteration to port which meant that vessel A crossed in front of the bow of the two vessels.
- C -12 minutes: The Master was also aware of two outbound vessels from the port, vessels B and C. These vessels were not acquired on the radar. Vessel B called up vessel A and asked what their intentions were. The Master responded that he would like to have a port-to-port passing. Vessel B replied that it was turning hard to starboard to make the passing. The Master altered course to starboard. At this time vessel B was about 1 NM away on the port bow.
- C -9 minutes: The Master became aware of vessel C on the port bow. He could see the green, red and forward top lights on vessel C but did not take any action. Vessel A was maintaining a speed of 10 knots.
- C -7 minutes: The Master decided to open up/increase the CPA by altering 5 degrees to starboard for vessel C. A minute later the Master realized that vessel C was very close, and he ordered full ahead and hard to starboard. The vessels just passed each other clear by 10 metres. When vessel C was abeam the Master became aware of an island just ahead and he ordered hard to port. When vessel C passed clear the Master ordered midships and then 20 degrees to port.
- C -4 minutes: A minute later the pilot called the vessel on the VHF and asked why the vessel was heading dangerously close to the island. The vessel was now very close to it. The Master once again ordered midships and believed they would stay clear of the island.
- C -3 minutes: Suddenly the vessel started to vibrate heavily and there was a loud noise. The vessel’s speed was reduced to 5 knots. The Master was initially confused about what had happened but then understood that the vessel had hit the bottom but was still making way.
- C -2 minutes: The Master identified that vessel D was at anchor only 0.15 NM ahead of them, at which point the AB informed him that the rudder was not responding. The Master ordered starboard 20 and then hard to starboard, but the AB repeated that the rudder was not responding. The vessel was now sailing at about 7 knots. The Chief Officer suggested dropping the anchor, but the Master declined.
- Collision: The Master ordered full astern but shortly afterward vessel A’s bow hit the side of vessel D. The Master reported the grounding to the VTS but did not consider it was necessary to report the collision. Shortly afterward, the vessel managed to disengage from vessel D by engine manoeuvres and later dropped anchor.
There are several reasons why this vessel went aground and also suffered a collision. These were set in motion by a change to the passage plan caused by the order to arrive earlier at the pilot station. This is a common root cause of groundings and other accidents,
…the Club explains.
- Firstly, in his desire to arrive at the pilot station on time, the Master lost focus on safe navigation:
- He improvised the passage plan, which meant that no evaluation of the safety of the route was made.
- He demonstrated a complete loss of situational awareness.
- He failed to communicate his intentions to the bridge team and did not delegate tasks to the officers on the bridge.
A proper evaluation of the options would probably have resulted in the Master calling the pilots to say that they could not make the desired ETA but would arrive 20 minutes later.
- It is not good seamanship to cross in front of vessels that have just been overtaken. Once again it highlights the risks the Master was willing to take to make the ETA.
- Any deviation from the passage plan other than for collision avoidance should be documented and subject to a proper appraisal. The passage plan should be berth to berth and not only pilot station to pilot station. The new passage plan needs to be entered in the ECDIS. All bridge team members need to sign the updated passage plan. If paper charts are used, the charts must be updated and the route plotted on the charts.