MAIB Releases Investigation Into 2012 Ship Grounding in North Wales
“The sole objective of the investigation of an accident under the Merchant Shipping (Accident Reporting and Investigation) Regulations 2012 shall be the prevention of future accidents through the ascertainment of its causes and circumstances. It shall not be the purpose of an investigation to determine liability nor, except so far as is necessary to achieve its objective, to apportion blame.”
At 2008 on 3 April 2012, the cargo vessel Carrier ran aground on the coast of North Wales. The vessel had been loading limestone at Raynes Jetty (attached to Raynes Quarry at Llanddulas) when the weather deteriorated rapidly. The master decided to finish loading and put to sea; however, strong winds and large waves overwhelmed the vessel while it was manoeuvring away from the jetty, causing it to be driven onto the shore. Carrier suffered substantial damage and was declared a 'total constructive loss'. Approximately 33000 litres of gas oil was spilled into the sea. Some delays were caused to the shore-based rescue operation due to a lack of serviceable search and rescue helicopters, but ultimately the crew were rescued from the stricken vessel without injury.
The UK’s Meteorological Office had disseminated repeated warnings of gale force winds both on the day of the accident and the previous day. Although Carrier’s master had this information, it was evident that he considered there to be enough time for him to berth and load before the weather deteriorated. Staff at Raynes Jetty had also formed the impression that the wind speed would not increase until much later in the evening. However, as forecast, the wind speed increased rapidly from 1820 onwards. The master was keen to load as much cargo as possible, and although he first decided to leave the berth at 1900, he gave the final order to cease loading nearly an hour later.
Raynes Jetty was a privately owned harbour, considered to be an extension of the quarry, with no statutory or competent harbour authority. Although some of the risks of marine operations at Raynes Jetty had been considered, there was no safety management system of the type recommended in the Port Marine Safety Code. As a result, the marine operations at the jetty had not been adequately planned or controlled.
The investigation found that the terminology used in UK maritime weather forecasts was confusing to non-native mariners and shore-based staff who had not undergone marine training. There is a significant risk that the people the forecast is designed to assist do not understand what is being reported.
The Department for Transport has been recommended to engage with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Port Marine Safety Code steering group to broaden the application and uptake of the Port Marine Safety Code by operators of non-statutory harbours. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been recommended to work with the UK Meteorological Office to ensure that terminology used in weather broadcasts will be clearly understood by mariners and other users of the service. The operators of Raynes Jetty have been recommended to improve the control and oversight of its marine operations through the implementation of an appropriate marine safety management system; a recommendation has also been made to the owner of Carrier designed to ensure masters of its vessels are provided with the information and guidance needed to make properly informed decisions when trading in areas where severe weather is likely.