The reporter informed CHIRP that:

As the vessel completed its cargo discharge, a pre-departure bridge team meeting was held, and navigation equipment was tested. The Master/Pilot exchange was carried out in line with company standing instructions.

The vessel began its journey, leaving the berth and heading towards the sea. The ones on the bride were the two pilots, the Master, Chief Officer, OOW and the helmsman.

It should be noted that the pilotage from the berth to the fairway buoy was just over three hours. The pairs of buoys are distant every mile with a further mile from the final pair (No 1 buoys) to the Fairway buoy.

When the vessel sailed away from No. 2 buoys, the pilot left the bridge, after informing the rest of the crew on the bridge; that time, the vessel had surpassed the first set of buoys and before reaching the fairway buoy. As that time, the time was wind easterly 30-35kts gusting 50kts and the swell was reported as 2-3m; Then, the pilot advised the vessel to make a course of 221° after passing No.1 buoys in order to provide a good lee for a safe pilot disembarkation.

Following, the OOW left the bridge to help the pilot, whereas the Master and Chief Officer remained stable at their positions to monitor the vessel's movement in the channel. Yet, no one replaced the OOW who had left.

Then, the team realized that the vessel was drifting and getting closer to buoy No. 1 to starboard. To counter the drift, the helmsman was ordered to alter the wheel hard to port, but as the vessel started developing port swing the wheel was then ordered hard over to starboard to counter the swing and maintain a course parallel to the buoy.

Our vessel slowly responded and swung to starboard. The bow passed clear of the buoy but No.1 buoy struck our starboard side, where it fouled and was dragged along at the ship’s side for 2.5 miles before coming free

... the reported added.

The highlights of the situation are:

  • vessel hit the buoy whilst pilot was still on board but not on the bridge
  • after hitting the buoy, the pilot did not return to the bridge
  • the pilot was disembarking early because of the weather conditions
  • planned speed for the pilot transfer was 6.5kts
  • vessel was able to proceed on passage without delay.

A subsequent in-water survey found only minor propeller damage which did not affect the vessel’s operational capability.

In light of the incident, CHIRP resulted to the Lessons Learned, as presented below:

  1. the pilot should hand over the conn in a safe navigational position with ample time for the next manoeuvre.
  2. the Bridge Team should intervene immediately when the pilot’s instructions may place the vessel in a hazardous situation.
  3. any risk assessment should take into consideration the effect of current and wind as well as the time required to conduct the task.
  4. cross verification of buoys and other navigational marks with radar should be carried out to ascertain the present position and leeway.