P&I Clubs are concerned about Navigational Casualties and Navigational Error their impact and frequency. When we are looking into their circumstances, we are often struck by the huge gap that exists between the simplicity of the course of the accident and the severity of the consequences.
A case study on the lookout and passage planning involves a collision of two containerships Hyundai Discovery and ACX Hibiscus, heading to Singapore. Hyundai Discovery was inbound to Singapore and the Panamanian registered ACX Hibiscus was outbound from Singapore. The collision happened during the morning watch where there was a change in the watch. The Hyundai Discovery just turned to starboard to come into a parallel track and four minutes later the ACX Hibiscus starts to make a course alteration to port. Visibility at the time was reduced by heavy rain. The ACX Hibiscus was making this course alteration as part of a navigational course alternation. There was no reason to make that alteration but she make it in complete ignorance that there was another vessel heading towards because she could see that vessel in the radar clutter. At Hyundai Discovery they noted that course alteration very quickly after occurred and their action was to use the VHF. However, the collision happened in less than 4 minutes after that ACX Hibiscus course alteration as there was very little time to take any action but much of that time was wasted with the conversation through the VHF. For the ACX Hibiscus there was an issue of fatigue as the Chief Officer of ACX Hibiscus had worked 19 of the preceding 24 hours. The Chief Officer and the Third Officer were totally unaware of Hyundai Discovery’s presence and yet they continued to turn and they maintained that turn even when the VHF conversation warmed to keep out of the way. They did not take into account of the likelihood of heavy rain or the risk of the course alteration for the passage plan. Course alteration could have been delayed until visibility improved. Regarding Hyundai Discovery, the Chief Officer detected that ACX Hibiscus was turning to port within 1 minute of turn starting, so there was very little time. They assessed that the earliest point which she could have noted the course alteration of the other vessel and decide what to do was about 2 minutes and 40 seconds before the collision which is a very short period of time. Taking action by engine manoeuvres would have not avoided the circumstances either.
A case study on the situational awareness and chartwork involves Oliva which run aground off Nightingale Island in Tristan da Cunha back in March 2011. Tristan da Cunha is a group of islands in the middle of nowhere – situated remotely in the South Atlantic Ocean 2,800km west of Capetown. Although there is plenty of sea room around, yet the ship managed to run aground! This bulk carrier was fully laden with soya beans on voyage from Santos to China. Waypoints were set at 10 degrees of longitude intervals. Passage plan intended to put the vessel 10nm south of the Tristan da Cunha Islands, so the waypoint was plotted incorrectly. The Second Officer noticed a large echo on the radar passing on port side assuming to be either icebergs or rain clouds. He passed over the watch to the Chief Officer who was not informed of the radar echoes or of any anticipated navigational hazards. The Chief Officer recalled some fuzzy radar echoes assuming to be rain clouds. However the Chief Officer noticed large echo on radar very close ahead, he assumed to be a storm cloud and seat resumed in pilot chair. The vessel grounded because the planned course took the vessel directly over Nightingale Island.
There are many recurrent features of these navigational casualties: the groundings occur at night, many of the vessels have not a dedicated lookout provided during hours of darkness. Fatigue is often a contributing factor and we often see that hours of work and rest are not properly maintained. None of these is a new case; unfortunately the MAIB conducted a study in 2004 on Bridge Watchkeeping Safety including simiral findings. The study reviewed a decade of casualties unveiling that little apparent progress has been made in this period. The study prompted by a series of remarkably similar casualties involving the common features of fatigued officers, one man bridge operation at night, missed course alterations and no watch alarms.
Areas of concern
- A third of all groundings involved a fatigued officer alone on the bridge at night
- Two thirds of vessels involved in collisions were not keeping a proper lookout
- A third of all the accidents occurring at night involved a sole watchkeeper on the bridge
- All vessels over 500 GT to have a minimum of a Master and two WKOs unless specifically exempted
- A change of emphasis in STCW to ensure that a lookout is provided on the bridge at all times unless a risk assessed decision determines otherwise
- Bridge lookout to be more effectively utilised as part of the bridge team
The vast majority of claims that we deal with are below 250,000 dollars. We analyzed the claims during the last 12 months where there was a lot of similarity with the MAIB study. Most of the claims were about collision making up 33% of the total. Major components were claims for loss of life, wreck removal and oil pollution. Many incident occurred at night with a single watchkeeper in the wheelhouse.
The impact of navigational claims at the IG’s Pool Experience
Fatigue plays a big part in the navigational accidents. Project Horizon is a project designed to look at the impact of fatigue on the seafarers. It is a scientific study into the effects of sleepiness on the cognitive performance of maritime watchkeepers under different watch patterns, using ships’ bridge, engine and liquid cargo handling simulators. Study findings are quite worrying a
The important thing from our perspective is to try to understand what is happening. I think there is a need for more to be done by shipowners in undertaking navigational audits and supervising passages.
Above article is an edited version of Chris Adam’s presentation during 2014 SAFETY4SEA Forum
More details may be found by viewing his Presentation video