The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its report into the capsize of the tug Domingue at Tulear, Madagascar, with the loss of two members of her crew.
On September 20, 2016, the 300 hp tug Domingue was filling in on ship assist duty, as the port's 1,200 hp Voith drive harbor tug was down for maintenance. Domingue was not fitted with a gog rope (a line that prevents the towline from being pulled across the tug's beam) nor any emergency tow release mechanism.
That evening, she was assigned to assist the UK-flagged container vessel CMA CGM Simba away from her berth. It was Simba's first call at Tulear on a new service route from Madagascar to South Africa. Domingue was connected to the Simba's stern by means of two of the ship's mooring lines. At 1730, the Simba's master called for the small tug to pull away from the dock at full power, and as the Simba came off the pier, the master ordered propulsion ahead and starboard rudder, swinging the stern further out.
At 1742, once Simba was off the dock and free of her final mooring lines, she began to drift astern with the tidal stream. As she drifted, she began closing in on a mooring dolphin off her starboard quarter. She came to within ten feet of the concrete dolphin, and to avoid contact, the master ordered half ahead, then full ahead and hard to starboard. By 1745, the Simba was making 5.4 knots over ground – but not the tug, which had not been notified of Simba’s intentions. The Domingue fell astern of the container ship and was girted and capsized by the lines.
The master ordered all stop and radioed the second mate to cut the tug loose, and the pilot boat responded to assist the Domingue's crew. In spite of the incident, Simba resumed her maneuvers for departure, and the pilot informed the master that all aboard the tug had been rescued. However, one of the Domingue's crew died on scene and another died later in the hospital. The Madagascar maritime authorities later contacted the Simba and asked her to return to port at Tulear for an investigation.
MAIB concluded that the lack of communcation had contributed to the accident by giving the tug little time to react. Further, the lack of experience of the Domingue's crew, plus the absence of tow safety equipment, likely reduced the tug's ability to recover from the dangerous situation. In addition, the Domingue's hatches and portholes had been open during the evolution, likely speeding her capsize.