Transport Malta’s MSIU issued an investigation report on the grounding of the Malta-flagged container ship ‘Umm Salal’, off Selangor, Malaysia, in 6 April 2017. Evidence from the report suggested that the OOW had to interpret his observations and plan his actions practically on his own, which is considered to be the immediate cause of the accident.
Commencing sea passage towards Khor Fakkan, the master gave the conn to the duty navigational OOW, accompanied by an AB as a look-out. The master left the bridge. Once the required documents had been emailed, the OOW joined his look-out in the wheelhouse. According to the OOW, all navigational equipment was in good working order.
Two minutes after joining the look-out, the OOW noticed two ships on his port side. Assessing the situation, he concluded that the CPA was too small and the vessels would cross the bow. In view of his concerns, he altered course to starboard by 5° and kept monitoring the situation on the radar only.
Then he observed that the situation remained critical and the course was altered again to starboard by further 10°. He recalled that at about 1530, the chief engineer came on the bridge and requested some information from the engine movement book. The OOW proceeded to the chart room and provided the information to the chief engineer, who left the bridge about two minutes later. Soon after the chief engineer left the bridge, the OOW noticed the ship vibrating. Concerned about this, he looked at the echo sounder’s front panel which read a depth of 2.0 m. The ECDIS indicated that the vessel was heading towards a shallow patch of water.
The OOW changed steering to manual and turned the wheel hard to starboard. In the meantime, the master had also felt the vibration and quickly made his way to the bridge. By the time he arrived, the vessel’s speed had dropped from 18 knots to 15 knots. The master pulled the telegraph to full astern. However, it was soon noticed that the vessel was not responding to the helm orders and the speed was dropping rapidly until the vessel came to a stop.
It was immediately suspected that the vessel was hard aground in position 02° 51.00’ N 101° 00.36’ E. VTS Klang was informed of the situation and an emergency team was mustered and requested to proceed with the sounding of the ballast tanks. Eventually, it was confirmed that the vessel had run aground on soft mud and that there were no damages to the underwater portion of the vessel.
Evidence suggested that the OOW had a traffic situation which necessitated his full attention and also alterations of course. Throughout this entire process, he had to interpret his observations and plan his actions practically on his own, which is considered to be the immediate cause of the accident:
- The OOW may have had an issue with the management of the workload and the control of attention because of the necessity to compute multiple tasks in a very critical time, with limited attentional focus in a dynamic environment.
- The traffic situation evolving ahead of the ship prevented the OOW from shifting his attention to the navigational aids which were clearly indicating that the vessel was heading into shallow waters. On his own, the OOW was unable to shift his attention between the various systems providing the data. Unable to mitigate the situation effectively, not least because he was on his own and having, out of necessity, altered course to a heading, which had not been pre-planned, the vessel ran into shallow waters and remained stranded.
- The entry of the chief engineer, although it did not contribute directly to the accident, may have interfered with the OOW to diagnose and correct the vessel’s course, thereby preventing it from running into shallow waters. However, the grounding happened a few minutes after the chief engineer left the bridge and hence the possibility to alter the course and steer away from shallow waters was actually very remote.
United Arab Shipping Company Ltd. was advised to ensure that navigational equipment onboard is used properly, especially equipment fitted with audible and visual alarms.
Explore more in the following report: