Tongala Collision: Good Visibility, Plenty of Time

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By MarEx 2016-05-11 20:24:13

Transport Malta has issued a report on the collision between the Maltese registered vehicle carrier Tongala and the Republic of Korea registered general cargo vessel Bo Spring, citing a lack of situational awareness despite good visibility and the vessels being in sight of each other for an hour.

The incident occurred on May 7, 2015, off the coast of the Philippines. As a result of the collision, Tongala sustained structural damages to her starboard quarter side, above the waterline and the engine-room. Bo Spring sustained damage to her bow. No injuries and / or marine pollution were reported.

The safety investigation concluded that both navigational officers of the watch (OOWs) did not have an accurate situation awareness of the dynamic context around their respective ships.

Little information was made available from the Bo Spring, but the report cites relevant background and contributing factors that it considered important on Tongala. According to the gathered evidence, the second mate was the OOW at the time of the collision. There was no other crew member on the bridge. The vessel was operating on the traditional three-watch system. However, since there were two third mates on board, the second mate was on the 0000-0400 and the 1200-1600 watches and one of the two third mates kept the 0800-1200 and the 2000-2400 watches. The other third mate kept the 0400-0800 watch, while the chief mate kept the 1600-2000 watch. Although he did not keep a navigational watch, the master was on call at all times. 

Some of the issues raised were:

1. Irrespective of the workload on the OOW, the investigators did not come across any evidence which indicated that the additional crew members were being considered to carry out the tasks that distracted the duty OOW from his navigational watch.
2. No collision warning alarms were set on any of the automatic radar plotting aid (ARPA) sets. All three ARPA sets had been set up with an off-centre, displaying a longer range in the ahead position but with a reduction in the scanning range on the vessel’s beams and abaft the beams. It seemed that ranges were not changed during the watch, suggesting that no long-range scanning was done on the 24 and 48 nautical mile ranges.
3. The ECDIS alarm was not effective to draw the attention of the OOW.
4. The OOW had spent long periods of time in the chartroom.
5. The chartroom’s night curtain was normally kept drawn and stowed on the starboard side of the railing and hence it would have obstructed the view of the OOW on the starboard side.
6. Given the multiple tasks which had to be carried out, the OOW decided to utilise the time of the navigational watch to work in the chartroom.
7. The OOW inside the chartroom missed on crucial signals, leading to a doubtful and inaccurate mapping of the meaningful states of the situation.
8. It was clear from Tongala’s VDR and ECDIS data that Bo Spring neither sounded any warning signals nor did it take any action to avoid the collision.

The OOW was 26 years old. He had obtained his STCW Certificate of Competency in 2012. He first joined Wilhelmsen Lines Car Carriers in 2007 as a deck cadet and had been working for the company ever since. His first trip on Tongala was in 2014 as a third mate. He was then promoted to second mate. This was his second trip on the vessel, signing on board in December 2014. 

Following the accident, Wilhelmsen Lines Car Carriers took the following actions:

•    Maritime Resource Management (MRM) Training – The criteria for specific training in MRM has been enhanced to include a requirement for the training to be carried out every five years for masters, chief mates, second and third officers, chief and second engineers, and electricians. Previously, there had been no requirement for MRM refresher courses;

•    Voyage Data Recorder data as a training aid – A review of technical capability has been carried out and the company has decided to improve the interface functionality of the VDR units in order to allow downloads of targeted periods of time to be extracted. The primary scope is to have a valuable training aid by allowing the shipboard management team to review navigational practices on board. In addition, improvements in the company’s incident management processes are anticipated as a result of better access to VDR data for analysis. The company has advised that this upgrade is taking place as part of a broader, fleet-wide project presently underway to improve the ECDIS provision;

•    Masters’ random checks of navigational watchkeeping practices – Following the accident, serving masters were instructed to carry out random checks on watchkeeping standards on board their vessels (including equipment alarm setting status) and to review and amend their respective standing orders if any deficiencies were noted. The company has requested that this routine is adopted as part of a three monthly process within the vessels’ planned maintenance system;

•    Removal of the Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System (BNWAS) reset function – The facility to reset the BNWAS alarm function at the chart table is being removed on all company vessels. The company has advised that this action is designed to discourage OOWs from adopting poor watchkeeping practices;

•    Computer-based training (CBT) training in ColRegs application – A review of the CBT records has been carried out to ensure that the company specified ColRegs training has been completed by the required individuals, and deficiencies addressed as necessary;

•    Additional promotion criteria – In order to facilitate the better appraisal of all shipboard personnel, the company is considering a Crew Training Record Book. The book will record task achievement and hence competence standards, as an individual progresses along his/her career path. The company believes that it will provide objective evidence which will allow serving masters to better assess the comparative competence and experience levels of their officers and crew;

•    Training Presentations and Experience Feedback – Training presentations have been given at bi-annual officers’ conferences in India and the Philippines to discuss the accident in detail. The presentations included the results of the root cause analysis, lessons learned and actions to prevent recurrence. These presentations have been supplemented by Global Experience Feedback summaries, which have been distributed fleet-wide;

•    Company’s BPM and Navigational Watchkeeping – The company is amending its BPM to strictly prohibit a navigational OOW from carrying out tasks not related to a safe navigational watch (inter alia, chart corrections, voyage planning, routine testing and maintenance of equipment) when he/she is the sole look-out on the bridge.

The report is available here.