Pilot Adds to Accident Black Spot Casualties

By MarEx 2014-06-13 19:51:00

UK’s Marine Accident Safety Branch has concluded that pilot ignorance of the tanker Apollo’s propulsion system played a key role in its collision with the quayside in July 2013.

Apollo was rounding Tilburyness, River Thames, in a strong tidal flow when it left its intended track and made contact with the quayside at the Northfleet Hope Container Terminal. The vessel and the quayside both sustained significant damage as a result of the accident.

Tilburyness is an area with strong and complex tidal streams and there have been four accidents in this area since 2007.

Apollo was fully loaded with almost 22,000 tons of gas oil for discharge at the Vopak Terminal, West Thurrock. The pilot that had conduct of the vessel was undergoing a practical examination under the supervision of another pilot present on the bridge. 

The vessel was fitted with a controllable pitch propeller, but neither pilot was aware of this before the accident. As Apollo rounded Tilburyness the propeller pitch was briefly set to zero after which the vessel veered off course and made contact with the quayside.

A recommendation has been made to the Port of London Authority, the UK Marine Pilots Association and the Port Marine Safety Code Steering Group to develop best practice guidelines for the conduct of practical pilotage examinations.

The key safety issues identified in the MAIB investigation report were:

The information regarding the vessel’s propulsion system was not readily available to the pilots, either through the port’s information data system or the vessel’s pilot card.

The examination was not conducted in a commentary style, compromising the ability of the bridge team to communicate effectively.

The size of the vessel was inappropriate for the examination as it was larger than the size for which the pilot was being examined.

The full report is here.