Capsize: Training and Experience Inadequate
The U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch has released its report into the capsize of the mooring launch Asterix, citing inadequate training and experience as playing a role in the accident.
The capsize occurred March 30, 2015, while Asterix was assisting the small chemical tanker Donizetti at Fawley oil refinery, Southampton. Asterix’s coxswain was not advised that Donizetti was about to come ahead, and as the tanker increased speed, he was unable to maneuver the mooring launch to run alongside it. The launch then began to list.
The coxswain attempted to operate the towing hook emergency release by pulling on the handle suspended from the wheelhouse deckhead above his head. The coxswain’s attempt was unsuccessful, and the deckhand left the wheelhouse and attempted to release the towing hook by pulling directly on the emergency release wire. Again, this was unsuccessful and the launch capsized.
The two crewmen from the launch were rescued, the coxswain having been trapped in the upturned wheelhouse for more than an hour. The launch later sank.
Safety Issues Identified in the Report
Although girting (capsize resulting from the action of the ship in tow) was recognized as a hazard, Østensjø Rederei AS’s risk assessment’s control measure was simply to use a gog (stop) rope on every tow. This assumed that a risk of girting existed on every tow, and that the launch crew were proficient in adjusting the gog rope to maximize its preventive effect, states the report.
Asterix’s gog rope was set at an intermediate length that was neither short enough to move the towing point sufficiently aft to prevent girting nor long enough to facilitate maximum maneuverability.
It is evident that Asterix’s coxswain was not sufficiently trained or experienced to use the gog rope to best effect, or to make an early assessment that an extremely hazardous situation was developing, states the report.
The effort required to operate Asterix’s towing hook emergency manual release mechanism increased in proportion to the loading on the hook. Østensjø Rederei AS’s safety management system did not require the release to be tested as part of a drill, and so the mooring launch crews lacked preparedness to take appropriate and rapid action in the event of a developing emergency.
With the gog rope secured to the H-shaped bit, it was not possible for the crew to rapidly and safely adjust the towing point when the towline was under tension. With additional controls in place, such as effective proactive communications between the pilot and Asterix’s coxswain at defined stages of the operation, the risk of girting could have been reduced.
Donizetti’s pilot relied on tug masters and launch coxswains to act autonomously and to inform him when in doubt or difficulty. This practice appears to have diminished the value he placed on proactive and detailed communication.
There is a current lack of formal published guidance for the operators of small vessels engaged in towing operations, including specific actions required to prevent girting, states the report. A lack of joint training and interaction between pilots and mooring launch coxswains in Southampton is likely to have had a negative impact on operational liaison.
The report is available here.