Accident details: At a glance

  • Type of accident: Dragging anchor and grounding
  • Vessel(s) involved: Harvest Caroline (general cargo ship)
  • Date: 31st October 2006
  • Place: off Scotland
  • Fatalities: None
  • Pollution: No significant environmental pollution was reported.
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The incident

Shortly after 05.00 on 31 October 2006, the general cargo ship ‘Harvest Caroline’ started to drag her anchor in strong northerly winds. The ship was blown about 8 cables until she grounded on the eastern side of Tanera More, Summer Isles, at 0545.

The crew were alerted as the ship started to take the ground and, although the engine was quickly started, the ship could not be re-floated.

At 06.14 an emergency call was transmitted to Stornoway Coastguard, and rescue forces headed to the scene. A female passenger was winched off the ship by the SAR helicopter at 0727.

Shortly after 0940, Harvest Caroline re-floated on the rising tide and was towed to Ullapool, where it arrived the same day.

There was no pollution or injuries, while damage to the vessel was limited to indentations to the hull plating in way of the engine room.



Probable causes

The official investigation report by UK MAIB identified several factors which contributed to the ship dragging her anchor and subsequently grounding, including:

  • The selected anchorage position was inappropriate in view of the depth of water, the anchor cable available and the predicted weather conditions.
  • The length of anchor cable deployed was insufficient to prevent the holding power of the anchor from reducing in the strong northerly winds.
  • The dragging of the anchor was not detected because the nominated OOW was in bed.

But more importantly, UK MAIB noted that the safety management of the ship ‘did not meet the objectives of the ISM Code’, while the ship manager had very little experience in ship management.

The ship’s safety management system had not been properly established when the Interim Safety Management Certificate was issued on 30 May 2006 and was not tailored to the ship’s operation,

…the report reads.

ISM breaches in a nutshell

The failure to routinely ensure the safety of the ship at anchor, and a number of significant departures from the ship’s onboard SMS identified during the investigation, indicate that the safety management of the vessel was not meeting the objectives of the ISM Code.

…the report notes.

These departures included:

  • the chief officer leaving the bridge unattended when the ship was underway at night;
  • not providing an additional lookout on the bridge when underway during darkness;
  • the consumption of alcohol onboard when prohibited;
  • the employment onboard of an unqualified deck rating, and;
  • the failure to log and report accidents to the ship.

While none of the above could reasonably have been expected to have been observed during the Flag State’s interim ISM verification audit, some or all of them would have been evident during the subsequent initial ISM audit. However, only the lack of qualification of the deck rating was identified.

The failure to record accidents was not identified, even though the INSB surveyor had attended the vessel’s repair following her accident in Loch Sunart on 30 May 2006.


Lessons learned 

The incident is a good example of how improper safety management can affect the overall safe operation of the ship.

In response to the fact that the bridge was left unattended, the ship manager on the aftermath revised its instructions regarding bridge manning requirements when the ship is at anchor and fitted a watch alarm. It also replaced the AB until he had qualified as a watch rating.

To address similar incidents in the future, the company also amended the instructions for anchoring in its safety management manual.

Meanwhile, although the ship’s safety management prohibited alcohol onboard, the Captain was reportedly drinking the previous night, while he had been warned for consuming alcohol in the past. As such, the company also prohibited the consumption of alcohol at any time, setting a breathalyser onboard.

For the field of hazardous environmental conditions, the company instructed that, between October and March, anchoring should be avoided whenever possible in darkness or bad weather, and that the ship should preferably be moored alongside even where this requires deviation from the cargo route. The organization informed its masters that it is willing to incur the extra costs involved to ensure the safety of the ship and her crew.

The MCA also proposed to the IMO that the provision of standards of competency required by designated persons be included in the Revised Guidelines on the implementation of the ISM Code by Administrations.


Explore more in the official report: