A general cargo ship grounded in Northern Ireland when the master left the bridge unattended
A general cargo ship grounded in Northern Ireland when the master left the bridge unattended. Investigators discovered that the captain of cargo vessel Ruyter left the bridge unmanned and without the main alarm that would have alerted the rest of the crew.
The Netherlands-registered ship crashed into the north shore of Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland at 23.11 on 10 October 2017. During an investigation by the UK Government’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) it was discovered that the bridge navigational watch alarm system (BNWAS) was switched off.
In the report MAIB said there was evidence that the master had consumed alcohol in heavy quantities before taking over watchkeeping at 20.00 and had deserted the bridge. At the time of the grounding the VD Innovation-managed ship was sailing on autopilot with a course set at 21.05.
“By not posting a lookout at night and leaving the BNWAS switched off, Ruyter’s watchkeepers had actively disabled the crucial alarms and defences that were intended as barriers to help prevent an accident,” MAIB said. “Further, as there had been no negative consequence or challenges to these decisions, this had become the normal routine on board.”
With the BNWAS switched off, other officers on board Ruyter were unaware that the ship was sailing into danger and had been woken by the noise and vibration of the ship grounding on the island.
With no one on the bridge, the autopilot course was not changed to avoid the island and the ship struck rocks that caused considerable damage to the vessel’s hull and shaft. The chief officer was able to refloat the ship on its own power and sail it to a safe anchorage, but with the shaft damaged there was a fire in the shaft generator, which was extinguished by the crew.
Following the accident, VD Innovation has taken action to improve ship safety. This includes the introduction of random alcohol testing and the empowerment of its crews to alert any concerns they may have to the company. However, MAIB did not mention whether there had been changes to policy on use of the BNWAS.