Grounding: Practices Impacted by Small Bridge Team
The U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its report into the grounding of the general cargo vessel Islay Trader highlighting the importance of planning when going to anchor and the requirement for ensuring that an effective watch is kept whilst at anchor.
During the morning of October 8, 2017, the Islay Trader began dragging its anchor, and the ship’s officer of the watch attempted to reposition the vessel without the assistance of the master. The officer subsequently became overwhelmed, uncertain of the ship’s position and the vessel grounded near Margate beach. The vessel re-floated approximately 12 hours later. There were no injuries and no pollution.
The investigation showed that the vessel dragged its anchor because the length of anchor cable used was insufficient in the tidal conditions experienced. The chief officer did not monitor the vessel’s position and was not aware that the vessel had dragged its anchor until alerted by the London Vessel Traffic Service (VTS).
The chief officer checked Islay Trader’s position when he took over the bridge anchor watch from the master at 2300, but he did not check it again until he was alerted by London VTS at 0158. Consequently, he was unaware of the vessel’s movement. Although the variable range markers that had been set on the radar were a rudimentary but effective means of monitoring the vessel’s position, the chief officer could not see the radar display when working at the chart table.
The chief officer would inevitably have taken several natural breaks during the time he was carrying out passage planning and chart corrections, which would have afforded opportunities for him to check the radar or plot a fix. That he failed to do so for almost three hours, indicates that position monitoring was a very low priority. From the chief officer’s perspective, the vessel had not moved during the master’s watch, and he was not necessarily aware that the tide was rising and the rate of the tidal stream was increasing.
However, it also indicates that the BNWAS, which was very close to the X-band radar, was not operating as reported, otherwise the chief officer would have seen the radar display when he reset the BNWAS every nine minutes. As it took the chief officer 19 seconds to respond to the VTSO calls at 0158, and he was alone on the bridge, it is possible that he was functioning at a low level of arousal, even if working at the chart table.
The navigational practices on board Islay Trader were adversely impacted by the pressures resulting from having only two bridge watchkeepers and MAIB has made a recommendation to Islay Trader’s owner and manager Faversham Ships aimed at improving the standard of navigational and bridge watchkeeping practices on board its vessels.