According to the report, despite the numerous accidents that become known in the industry about tugs that don't follow proper safe operations and lead to flooding and fatal incidents, in this incident during an assist of a large container vessel during departure, the crew of the tug didn't exercise proper controls to close and secure the watertight door to the accommodation.
The reporter informs CHIRP that the warning, training and instructions included in the safety manual of the tug owner were clear and understood by all, despite the fact that the crew did not comply.
Following, CHIRP was later informed that the reporter tried to inform the company of the near miss but was ignored, proceeding to reporting to CHIRP.
As a result, CHIRP later on contacted the DPA who confirmed that the photograph did confirm the report, and that the aft accommodation watertight door may have been open without cause, something that was in contrary to the company’s safety procedures and industry best practice.
In light of the incident, CHIRP comments:
Tugs are particularly vulnerable to flooding through any watertight opening that might not properly be secured.
Often, this is a result of external forces during towing operations, and the matter is even more dangerous for those operating in the engine rooms or below decks due to the possibility of flooding.
Also, tugs are more prone to flooding when the crew thinks that they are overfamiliar and complaint with the operations.
Moreover, CHIRP highlights that
The best SMS in the world is only as good as the people who operate it. The end users need to be positively encouraged to take ownership of the SMS and not view it as something imposed from above.
Although the Reporting Programme appreciates that the tug was operated by a small crew, it condemns the crew for not following the SMS step by step; Additionally, the program raised a question on whether the SMS may be re-examined in case crew members have to multi-task and move frequently through the watertight door.
Concluding, CHIRP recommends that
- Re-examination of the SMS to see if it is fit for purpose applies to all commercial vessels.
Too often the SMS is produced by the office ashore and put onto the ship with minimal input from the seafarers onboard who have to operate the ship whilst complying with the requirements of the system.