Accident investigators highlight factors causing ship groundings and recommend training and e-navigation improvements
Maritime accident investigations highlight issues with e-navigation, watchkeeping and navigator knowledge gaps. Multiple ship groundings and collisions occur every month worldwide demonstrating the danger of poor navigation decisions, engineroom issues and inadequate communications.
This year, there have been more incidents of container-stack collapses and containers falling off box ships in storm conditions and heavy sea swells.
Navigation errors were highlighted by the UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) in 2020 accident reports. A recent case was a report from MAIB’s investigation into the grounding of general cargo vessel Kaami on the Sgeir Graidach shoal of Little Minch in Scotland on 21 March 2020.
After the grounding, the crew were safely evacuated by coastguard helicopter, the vessel was refloated by salvors on 4 May 2020 and was declared a constructive total loss. The MAIB says in the report the crew’s voyage planning procedures and passage monitoring did not identify the grounding hazard presented by the Sgeir Graidach shoal.
Investigators criticised the ability of crew on Kaami to use ECDIS for safe navigation because they did not receive sufficient mandatory generic and type-specific training.
MAIB found there was no adequate manning or time on board for the chief officer to plan the voyage, and for his plan to be checked and verified by a second member of the bridge team as required by the vessel’s safety management system.
It also says the safety management system did not provide adequate safeguards for voyage planning and ECDIS use. Plus, the vessel operator Misje Rederi’s internal auditing programme did not identify shortfalls in voyage planning and ECDIS use.
Following the investigation, the MAIB made recommendations to Misje to review the number of watchkeepers on its vessels to minimise hazards associated with fatigue. It recommended improvements in guidance in its safety management systems on the effective use of ECDIS and of bridge lookouts, and to enhance its ability to conduct internal navigation audits.
The MAIB also investigated the grounding of Isle of Man-registered roro freight ferry Arrow in thick fog while entering Aberdeen Harbour on 25 June 2020. During its port approach, a pilot exemption certificate (PEC) holder was navigating by radar and steering the vessel. Before Arrow entered Aberdeen’s 70-m wide navigation channel, with limited support from the bridge team, the PEC holder became overloaded. While attempting to correct a deviation to the north of the planned track, he over-corrected. But this was not noticed by the bridge team in time to avoid the grounding.
Safety issues identified by investigators included no effective shared mental model of the pilotage plan and the vessel’s progress along it. MAIB says Arrow’s bridge team was not fully prepared for pilotage in restricted visibility and the support provided to the PEC holder by the bridge team was poor.
MAIB says the navigation techniques used did not provide Arrow’s bridge team with an accurate view of the available safe water in the Aberdeen approach channel. Investigators also found limited electronic chart system capabilities meant the PEC holder was navigating by radar alone.
In a follow-up to these investigations, MAIB is collaborating with the Danish Marine Accident Investigation Branch in a study of ECDIS use. Together they will generate an understanding of the practical application and usability of ECDIS to support future ECDIS design, training strategies and the development of best practices.
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