A Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier loaded with 55,000 metric tonnes of nickel ore sailed close to a tropical storm with a maximum wind speed of 40 knots while en route. The vessel eventually capsized and sank. As a result, ten crew members went missing. Hong Kong MARDEP shared lessons learned from the incident.
The vessel loaded with 55,000 metric tonnes of nickel ore departed from Buli, East Halmahera, Indonesia for the port of discharge, Lianyungang, China.
While en route, the vessel sailed close to the path of a tropical storm with wind of force 8 on the Beaufort Scale with a maximum wind speed of 40 knots. It finally capsized and sank approximately in the position 19o 03’N, 124o 52’E.
A total of 16 out of 26 crew members were rescued by two nearby vessels. When the search and rescue operation stood down, ten crew members including the Master were still missing.
The investigation into the accident revealed that the vessel was loaded with nickel ore with moisture content in excess of the Transportable Moisture Limit, since the crew did not strictly adhere to the requirements stipulated in the IMSBC Code and the company’s instructions. As a result, cargo liquefaction and shifting occurred causing the vessel heavily listed and capsized eventually when she was near the tropical storm.
The investigation also revealed that the crew did not strictly follow the navigation and bridge procedures for adverse weather in voyage planning, and underestimated the effect of adverse weather to the cargo. Furthermore, the Master underestimated the consequence of the liquefaction effect of the cargo and failed to announce abandon ship at early stage.
In order to avoid recurrence of similar accidents in the future, the masters of ships transporting bulk cargo subject to liquefaction should strictly follow:
- the requirements of the IMSBC Code, especially the requirement of re-certifying the moisture content of the cargo by the shipper if there has been significant rain or snow during the loading of bulk cargo;
- all relevant shipboard procedures for voyage planning avoiding adverse weather; and
- the emergency plan for immediate action, such as abandon ship etc., when ships encounter serious list.