In its most recent “Good Catch” – a series where the American Club provides valuable lessons learned from incidents – the Club refers to an incident where a vessel made contact with a fender system, causing damage to the hull and the fender system.
general cargo vessel was approaching the dock. The vessel’s direct-drive diesel engine was in engine room control and the engine control room was manned. The Master and pilot had discussed the approach to the dock and agreed on the plan and how the two available tugboats would be used. As the vessel began its approach to the dock, it was traveling at a speed of approximately 1 knot.
The pilot ordered “stop” on the engine to allow the vessel to gradually slow. Shortly thereafter, he ordered “dead slow astern” for the engine and ordered the helm turned to “15o to port.” The Chief Engineer was in the engine control room and acknowledged the “stop” and the “dead slow astern” orders. However, the engine failed to restart. The Chief Engineer was immediately focused on directing the other engineers in diagnosing the problem and failed to inform the Master or pilot of the delay restarting the engine. It took several attempts over several minutes before they could get the engine restarted.
The Master and the pilot were on the bridge wing and due to concerns with other ship traffic in the area were unaware of the delay getting the engine restarted. With the engine in engine room control, no one on the bridge was actively monitoring the status of the engine. The pilot next ordered the engine “dead slow ahead” to align the vessel with the dock. Again, there was a delay getting the engine restarted. This time, the Master recognized that the engine hadn’t responded as expected and called the engine room.
The Chief Engineer indicated they were again having a problem and were working on it. After a delay, the engineers were able to get the engine started and respond to the “dead slow ahead” command. Due to the delay, the vessel did not start to turn as quickly as expected. The pilot gave emergency orders to both tugboats to try to slow the vessel and turn the bow. However, they were not able to prevent the vessel from contacting the fender system causing damage to the hull and the fender system.
The investigation determined that the technical difficulty getting the engine restarted was due to an accumulation of moisture in the starting air system. The investigation also concluded that the Chief Engineer failed to properly communicate with the Master and pilot regarding the problems restarting the engine or otherwise direct one of the other engineers to communicate with the bridge.
Additionally, the investigation determined that better monitoring of the engine status on the bridge would likely have enabled the Master and pilot to recognize earlier that the engine was not performing as expected.
In order to prevent similar incidences from happening in the future, the American Club makes the following remakes and recommendations:
- Any issues with the vessel’s propulsion should be immediately brought to the attention of the Master and the pilot, especially when maneuvering.
- The Chief Engineer should maintain full awareness of the situation at all times, and both direct the engineers and communicate with the bridge concurrently.
- Good bridge resource management should include diligent monitoring of the engine speed to ensure that the engine is responding and turning in the direction and speed ordered.
- A careful and planned approach to the dock is important as a safeguard against unforeseen circumstances that might involve the vessel propulsion, steering, an unexpected action by a tugboat, or delays with line handling.