Poor watch-keeping led to a collision between two ships at sea which placed the lives of two crew in “grave danger” a report has found.
The cargo ship Daroja and oil bunker barge Erin Wood collided off Peterhead in Aberdeenshire at around 5pm on August 29 last year.
The Erin Wood heeled over 90 degrees and water rushed in. The deckhand, who was in the mess room, was fully submerged in seawater while the skipper escaped from the flooded bridge through an open window.
The Cyprus registered Daroja sustained minor damage, but damage to the St Kitts and Nevis registered barge included breaches of the hull, resulting in flooding of the vessel and pollution from leaking fuel cargo.
A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report into the incident, which happened four nautical miles south east of Peterhead, found that poor watchkeeping by lone watchkeepers led to the collision.
At the time of the incident, both vessels were manned by watchkeepers who were not keeping a lookout and were therefore unaware of the risk of collision.
On board Daroja the chief officer, who was the officer of the watch, missed opportunities to detect Erin Wood by visual, radar and automatic identification system means, according to the report.
This happened because he had become “complacent through distraction, inattentiveness, the repetitive nature of the vessel’s schedule and insufficient supervision”, it said, stating that he became distracted “primarily by cargo paperwork but also by a phone call and, potentially, the use of his tablet computer”.
On board Erin Wood, the bridge was not continuously manned and, although the skipper was aware of the presence of another vessel, the situation was not effectively assessed and an assumption was made that a larger ship would keep clear.
Steve Clinch, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, said: “On August 29 2015, in daylight and good visibility, the cargo ship Daroja and the bunker barge Erin Wood collided east of Peterhead.
“Erin Wood’s crew was put in danger and damage to the vessel resulted in some minor pollution.
“The collision occurred because of low standards of watchkeeping in both ships.
“Neither of the officers on watch was keeping lookout, so both were unaware of the other ship on a collision course.
“Lone watchkeeping was also a factor on both vessels and this report emphasises the importance of managing the risks when the officer of the watch is the sole lookout.
“The investigation also found shortcomings in the safety management of Erin Wood including the crew not being suitably qualified.
“Safety recommendations have been made to the managers of both vessels and Erin Wood’s flag state intended to raise standards.”
No-one was injured but the report found that the flooding placed the Erin Wood and the lives of both crewmen in “grave danger”.
It said: “The lives of Erin Wood’s crew were placed in significant danger.
“The skipper’s presence of mind to escape from the flooded bridge, and the deckhand managing to hold on to the bulwark to prevent being washed completely overboard, are actions that probably saved their lives.”
The investigation also identified “significant safety shortcomings” in the management and operation of Erin Wood.
It said this unsafe situation arose because Erin Wood’s managing company lacked experience in the industry sector and prioritised “commercial gain ahead of safety at sea”.
The MAIB said that United Shipping Companies Barnkrug GmbH & Co.KG, Daroja’s managing company, had reviewed its safety management system and made a series of changes to improve bridge watchkeeping standards.
Impact Trading Ltd, who were Erin Wood’s operators, went into administration in the summer.
MAIB said that safety recommendations were made to both managing companies which were intended to improve standards of navigation and watchkeeping.
A safety recommendation has also been made to the St Kitts and Nevis International Ship Registry intended to improve its assessment of potential risks during the process of initial registration of vessels being taken onto its flag.