Three years after the incident, the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) published the results of its investigation into the grounding of the Wakashio bulk carrier that ran off the coast of Mauritius, concluding that the accident was ”most propably a result of human factor”.
MV Wakashio ran aground off Mauritius early in the evening of 25 July 2020, attracting significant media attention for several weeks following the occurrence, as fuel oil started leaking from the vessel in the environmentally sensitive region and adverse weather conditions impeded proper response.o remind, the bulk carrier
Back in 2020, the ship ‘Wakashio’ was making a trip from Singapore to Tubarao- Brazil in ballast conditions, it was completely empty in its cargo holds with a total of 20 crew on board and with a deadweight of 203,130MT and with all ballast tanks full.
The investigation report concludes that this accident caused no injuries, however caused a great damage to the vessel and environmental impact. As a result, the incident is being identified as a very serious marine casualty.
All navigation equipment was working properly; there were no reports of equipment’s malfunction. The vessel was manned with sufficient personnel for the operations and appropriate navigation for such voyage. It was not found that a causal factor was fatigue, since the crew was carrying out an oceanic navigation which is very calm, since during the voyage there was no high traffic of ships for several days of navigation before the vessel ran aground.
On the day of the accident, the following factors significantly contributed to the grounding: The Chief Officer (OOW) was instructed by the Captain to pass 5 miles south of Mauritius before attending a crew member’s birthday celebration. The ship, however, ended up cruising closer to land than expected due to confusion over the proper course. The Chief Officer then lost sight of the fact that the ship was approaching shallow waters, probably as a result of his cell phone distraction. Even though the Captain had returned to the bridge prior to the grounding, he also overlooked the ship’s deviation from its intended route.
Factors responsible for the vessel running aground
Lack of Safety Awareness
- Lack of safe clear distance off Coast
- When the Master decided to pass 5 nautical miles away from the coast, the OOW misidentified that there was insufficient water depth on ship’s planning course, so he did not realize that the ship would be running aground.
- Lack of awareness that it is very risky for large vessel to navigate close to shore a few distance.
Lack of recognition and implementation of Voyage rules
- Lack of recognition and insufficient performance related to ECDIS:
- Lack of recognition on the ship’s electronic charts that it contains insufficient information such as water depth and is not suitable for coastal voyages.
- Large scale nautical charts which are necessary for navigation in the sea area relevant to the voyage were not arranged in accordance with the voyage plan procedure specified by the Ship Management Company.
- When the ship decided to alter the original course two days before running aground (23th July), verification of risk on the new course was not conducted properly as the voyage plan was not prepared.
- Lack of Vigilance – Failure to conduct proper navigation
- There was no small-scale electronic chart available to confirm the distance and depth of water from the shore
- The OOW failed to visually check the tracking and the distance clearance from the shore with the ECDIS.
- The OOW failed to maintain proper vigilance for safe navigation during watch.
- Duty officer brought the mobile phone to the bridge and used it with the Master during the watch
- The Helmsman was not assigned to the watch during the navigation on duty with the OOW, and even after sunset, only the watch officer was on duty.
In essence, the OOW kept his cell phone on the bridge while doing the navigational watch. The distraction of the cell phone most likely caused the lack of supervision or lookout in navigation, the report mentions. Despite the Captain’s decision to pass 5 miles from Island of Mauritius, the OOW did not maintain the correct course to be able to pass 5 miles south of the island. As such, the report mentions that ” if the ship had passed within 5 miles of the island of Mauritius, the vessel probably would not have run aground.”
As a general conclusion, from the records available from the crewmember statement of facts and the attended investigators interview, the grounding was most probably a result of ‘human factor’.
Recommendations to ship company
- Conducting a Pre-Boarding Briefing
- Participate in a pre-boarding briefing for Master and Chief Engineer conducted by the ship management company or the crew manning company to share information and exchange opinions about the accident in order to promote safety awareness.
- Evaluation of Senior Officers
- Before senior officer board on the vessel, check the evaluation of senior officers which is conducted by the Ship Management Company or the Crew Manning Company.
- For senior officers who are planning to board on the company’s ship for the first time, interviews will be conducted to evaluate the personnel and if there is a problem, boarding will be cancelled.
- Marine Notice to Fleet: the ship’s operator and owners should make a marine notice about the causes induce to accident.
- Visiting ship for conversation with ship’s crew
- Evaluation of onboard and working conditions: conduct a questionnaire of the status of the ship with disembarked crew members and if there is any problem, notify it to the ship management company or crew manning company