Loss of Tow Compounded by Organizational Problems

Sea Worker
Sea Worker

By MarEx 2016-12-22 18:04:55

The Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board has released its report into a loss of tow incident citing organizational factors contributed to the incident.

The Maltese tug Amber II departed Frederikshavn on January 24, 2016, with its tow, the Danish manned installation jack-up platform Sea Worker. The towing line between Amber II and Sea Worker broke on January 27, two and a half days after departure, while the towage was located in the North Sea, six nautical miles off the west coast of Jutland and was facing difficulties making speed due to wind, waves and current. 

When the towing connection was lost, the tug did not succeed in reconnecting using its emergency towing equipment. As the platform was drifting uncontrollably towards shore, it was evacuated, because it was deemed dangerous for the crew to stay on board during the grounding.

In the report, the DMAIB concludes that no single cause could explain why the tow was lost, but that the accident happened as a result of organizational factors, which had an effect on how this particular towage operation was planned and carried out. 

Sea Worker was operated with a project-driven strategy which entailed an ad hoc problem solving approach to work and a mind-set that all problems that arose could be resolved one way or another. On this voyage, it was not until the organization ran out of solutions to seemingly isolated problems that the people involved realized that the towage operation had changed from a manageable operational situation into an emergency. 

This realization did not occur simultaneously throughout the organization, just as the perception of the criticality of the situation varied among the different people involved. These differences in perception were enhanced by an organizational fragmentation which occurred as the situation grew in complexity.

When the emergency was evident to all involved, the ship was too close to shore, which meant that the response time for help exceeded the expected time for when the platform would drift aground. In other words, the opportunity for ad hoc problem solving had narrowed in time and distance and the only solution left was to abandon the platform.

The report is available here.