Out-of-date navigation charts, ignored Coastguard warnings and adverse weather caused the collision of two vessels and severing of two subsea power cables in the English Channel off the Kent coast. During storm conditions, general cargo ship Saga Sky collided with the rock-carrying barge Stema Barge II, which was improving sea defences at the time, according to an accident investigation report out today (15 March 2018).
UK government’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) discovered that an old Admiralty navigation chart had been used to determine the anchor position for Stema Barge II when the accident occurred on 08.50 on 20 November 2016.
Therefore, the barge master was unaware that this position was directly above subsea cables of Interconnector France-Angleterre 1 during a storm. “That this passed through the complete planning process for the sea defence work questions the level of focus on navigational safety,” said MAIB in the accident investigation report.
MAIB also concluded that crew on Saga Sky ignored warnings by the UK Coastguard to lower anchors during the storm. This meant anchors were not deployed by the ship until after the point at which a collision may have been prevented, MAIB said.
In response to these investigation findings, MAIB made recommendations to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) and shipmanager.
MAIB recommended that MMO should improve their marine licence application process to clearly stipulate a requirement that the latest nautical publications are referred to in project submissions.
Investigators also said MMO should be more precise with which activities a particular marine licence covers and that submissions include specific risk assessments.
MAIB recommended that UKHO should “adopt the International Hydrographic Organization’s recommendation for responsible authorities to set a minimum distance, nominally 0.25 nautical miles, from submarine cables, within which ships should avoid anchoring or conducting other underwater activities”.
There were also lessons in the report for shipowners and managers in terms of providing guidance to ship masters for voyages and anchorage in adverse weather conditions.
MAIB recommended to Saga Sky manager Anglo-Eastern Ship Management that it enhances shipboard procedures and vessel-specific guidance for captains. That “masters can refer to in order to estimate the effect forecast heavy weather conditions could have on their ships’ manoeuvrability”.