NZ TAIC releases report on 2018 bulker grounding in Bluff Harbour

Alam Seri (Photo: TAIC)

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission of New Zealand (TAIC) has released its report on the incident involving the grounding of a foreign-flagged cargo vessel at Bluff Harbour on November 28, 2018.

On the said date, the Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Alam Seri was entering Bluff Harbour in a strong east-south-easterly wind under the conduct of a harbour pilot.

During a turn to port, the pilot made successive helm orders and ordered engine speed to be reduced to slow ahead. Shortly afterwards, the vessel began to veer off course to starboard despite full port rudder.

To improve steering control (speed of water over rudder), the pilot ordered engine speed to increase to half ahead and called for early assistance from two harbour tugs.

Concerned about water depth, the pilot ordered engine speed full astern and asked the crew to deploy both anchors. However, both anchors failed to deploy in time, and the vessel momentarily contacted the seabed.

Alam Seri was later brought under control using astern engine power and assistance of the two tugs.

On Alam Seri, the below-waterline hull paint was abraded from seabed contact, and the above-waterline hull was damaged from contact with a tug. Both tugs were damaged during the event and towlines parted while bringing the bulk carrier under control.

No injuries have been reported among the crews of the vessels that were involved.

Problems

  • Ship off course: The strength of the wind on the accommodation block at the rear of the ship caused the stern to swing to port and its bow to swing to starboard.
  • Contacting the seabed: The delayed deployment of anchors likely resulted in the vessel not stopping as soon as it could have.
  • Bridge resource management: The ship’s bridge team (crew and pilot acting together) lacked a shared grasp of how slower engine speed, and the relative wind speed and direction, would affect the vessel’s steering.
  • Technology for situational awareness: The bridge team’s situational awareness was lower than it could have been, particularly when trying to get back on course after the vessel touched the seabed. This was because the bridge team had no electronic chart display and information system installed, and in this instance the pilot did not use a portable pilot unit.

Learning points

Ship operations – for vessel operators, flag state administrators, and classification societies:

  • Successful ship-handling and manoeuvring depends on balancing all forces acting on the vessel.
  • Critical standby equipment, such as a vessel’s anchors, should always be maintained in accordance with safety management requirements and be ready for immediate use.

Human factors – for maritime training establishments:

  • The information exchange between a master and a pilot should be a continuous process throughout the pilotage.
  • The whole bridge team should have a clear shared understanding of:
    • Planned manoeuvring actions and outcomes
    • How, when, and why anyone can speak up
    • Anything that may affect use of safety-critical equipment, such as anchors

Pilot training – for port operators, harbour managers, pilotage providers:

A pilot training and proficiency plan should be developed to ensure the competency and currency of pilots in the harbours where they operate. The plan must be followed to retain the pilots’ entitlement to exercise the privileges of their pilot licences.

Recommendation

The commission recommended that South Port ensure its pilots meet the requirements for training and proficiency requirements in accordance with the South Port Pilot and Tugmaster Training Manual and as required by Maritime Rule Part 90: Pilotage. (Recommendation 001/21)

  • This recommendation is supported by a Notice to Maritime New Zealand.
  • South Port has accepted the commission’s recommendation, and its comments are recorded in the final report.

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