Inadequate weather monitoring, poor risk assessments caused 2020 collision between two bulkers in BC waters, TSB report reveals
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) recently published its investigation report into an incident wherein two commercial cargo vessels collided in the waters of British Columbia on March 30, 2020.
Timeline of events
On February 11, 2020, the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier Golden Cecilie (pictured) departed Busan, South Korea, for Vancouver, British Columbia. At 20:18 local time on February 28, the vessel picked up a British Columbia coast pilot off Victoria and proceeded to Anchorage C in Plumper Sound, BC, allocated by the Port of Vancouver.
At around 23:12, the vessel anchored at Anchorage C using its port anchor with five shackles in the water.
When Golden Cecilie arrived at Anchorage C, the Liberian-flagged bulk carrier Green K-Max 1 was anchored at neighbouring Anchorage B and had been since February 24.
The distance between Golden Cecilie and Green K-Max 1 was about 1,280 metres. Both vessels were in ballast condition and were awaiting berthing instructions as their cargoes were not ready for loading.
Golden Cecilie had a draught of 4.63 metres forward and 6.77 metres aft with a freeboard of 12 metres.
On March 19, Golden Cecilie‘s crew obtained permission from Marine Communication and Traffic Services (MCTS) in Victoria to change over from its port anchor to its starboard anchor to prevent deposits from accumulating on the anchor as mentioned in the vessel’s safety management system (SMS) manual. The crew deployed two shackles of chain for the starboard anchor, heaved up the port anchor, and then deployed three more shackles of chain for the starboard anchor.
During the changeover, the crew used the vessel’s main engine to manoeuvre approximately 370 metres from its initial position and re-anchor closer to Anchorage B. The distance between Golden Cecilie and Green K-Max 1 was then approximately 910 metres.
After shutting down the main engine, Golden Cecilie‘s master placed the main engine on “20-minutes notice,” meaning that the main engine should start within 20 minutes from the time the bridge notifies the engine room or the duty engineer.
During the time at anchor, Golden Cecilie‘s bridge watch officers relied on NAVAREA warnings from Inmarsat C and NAVTEX that relay the local weather forecast. On March 29, at 14:00, the second officer on Golden Cecilie recorded in the bridge log book that the barometric pressure was 1,007 millibars and the winds were southerly at seven to 10 knots (force three on the Beaufort scale).
Golden Cecilie‘s master left the bridge for the night at around 17:00. The master’s usual night orders referred to bridge instructions for the bridge watch officers to follow.
The vessel’s anchoring and anchor watch checklist specified that the master was to be notified if the wind speed reached 28–33 knots (force seven on the Beaufort scale) and that the master, the duty engineer, and the forward station crew were to be called at the first sign of anchor dragging.
At 22:00, the wind was recorded as southeasterly at 11–16 knots (force 4 on the Beaufort scale). At 22:32, the NAVAREA weather forecast indicated an approaching gale approximately 550 nautical miles from Golden Cecilie with southeasterly winds at 25–35 knots (force six to seven on the Beaufort scale).
The Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) weather forecast indicated that strong winds of 20–33 knots were expected to occur in the Plumper Sound area. At 00:00 on March 30, the third officer recorded the barometric pressure as 1,002 mb and the wind speed as increasing to 17–27 knots (force five to six on the Beaufort scale) in the same southeasterly direction in the bridge log book.
Soon after, the second officer arrived on the bridge and relieved the third officer. At 02:00, the wind was recorded as southerly at around 28–33 knots in the bridge log book and the barometric pressure was recorded as 995 mb.
At about 03:10, the second officer on the bridge observed that the vessel was yawing due to wind gusts.
At 03:10:47, the dragging anchor alarm activated on the electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) alarm logger. Golden Cecilie‘s second officer also noticed that the vessel’s position on the radar had changed and that the vessel was drifting towards Green K-Max 1.
The second officer asked the duty able-bodied seaman to proceed to the bow and check the anchor.
The second officer then informed the master and the duty engineer that the vessel was dragging anchor and asked the duty engineer to prepare the main engine. The duty engineer immediately proceeded to the engine room and alerted the second engineer and chief engineer, who joined him.
At 03:20, the master arrived on the bridge. He ordered the able-bodied seaman to prepare the port anchor for deployment and asked the anchor team, consisting of the chief officer, the bosun, and a deck cadet, to proceed to the anchor station immediately.
At 03:25, the master ordered them to deploy the port anchor. The team tried to drop the port anchor, but it would not deploy.
While attempts to deploy the port anchor continued, the anchor team paid out an additional two shackles on the starboard anchor chain, as per the master’s orders, in an attempt to prevent the vessel from drifting further.
While the team was still attempting to deploy the port anchor, Golden Cecilie was drifting toward Green K-Max 1 at a speed of about 1.4 knots under the influence of the wind on its high freeboard.
Meanwhile, Green K-Max 1‘s officer of the watch noticed on the radar that Golden Cecilie had changed position. He contacted Golden Cecilie‘s bridge crew to determine if the vessel was dragging anchor. Upon receiving confirmation, the officer of the watch informed the master, who came on the bridge.
The master ordered Green K-Max 1‘s anchor team to proceed to the anchor station to pay out more starboard anchor chain so that the vessel could move away from Golden Cecilie. The anchor team paid out a total of 11 shackles in the water and Green K-Max 1 drifted about 185 metres northwest of its original location.
Green K-Max 1‘s main engine was on a 10-minute notice, but the master did not call for it to be started.
At 03:26, as Golden Cecilie’s anchor team were still having difficulties releasing the port anchor, the master ordered the starboard anchor to be paid out more. At about 0327, the starboard anchor was paid out two additional shackles to a total of 7 shackles in the water. Shortly afterwards, the anchor team managed to release the port anchor from its stowed position and deployed about 12 shackles.
At 03:28, the engineers started the main engine. The master ordered both anchors to be heaved up and used the main engine in an attempt to move away from Green K-Max 1. Golden Cecilie continued drifting toward Green K-Max 1 at a speed of about 1.4 knots.
At 03:30, Golden Cecilie‘s port mid-section collided with the starboard bow area of Green K-Max 1.
At 03:31, with Golden Cecilie‘s engine running slow ahead, the master attempted to move away from Green K-Max 1, but was unsuccessful. The gusty wind caused Golden Cecilie‘s abaft port mid-section to collide with the starboard bow of Green K-Max 1 a second time, causing damage to both vessels. At some point during this sequence of events, Golden Cecilie‘s port anchor became entangled with Green K-Max 1‘s port anchor chain.
At 03:32, Golden Cecilie, with its engine at half ahead, managed to clear a distance of about 370 metres from Green K-Max 1. However, because Golden Cecilie‘s port anchor was still entangled with Green K-Max 1‘s port anchor chain, Golden Cecilie was pulling Green K-Max 1 at about half a knot.
At 03:42, Golden Cecilie‘s crew heaved up the starboard anchor. While attempting to heave up the port anchor, they became aware that it was entangled with Green K-Max 1‘s port anchor chain and stopped. The masters on both vessels requested pilots and assist tugs.
By 10:30, pilots had boarded both vessels and untangled the anchor from the chain. Escorted by tugs, Golden Cecilie re-anchored at Anchorage C and Green K-Max 1 re‑anchored at Anchorage B.
The contact between the vessels resulted in a 30-centimetre diameter hole in Golden Cecilie‘s port hull about three metres below the deckline in the number five top side water ballast tank, as well as a rectangular dent in the port hull in way of the number four top side water ballast tank. Green K-Max 1 had minor damage to its starboard bow in way of its number one starboard ballast tank.
The damage to both vessels was above the waterline. There was no pollution.
At the time of the occurrence, it was dark and raining and the visibility was 10 nautical miles. The wind was south-southeasterly at around 22–27 knots (force six on the Beaufort scale) with gusts of wind at about 41 knots. The current direction was toward the north with a swell height of 2.5 to four metres.
ECCC’s historical data show that, in March and April, the wind speed around the area can reach 45–55 knots (force nine to 10 on the Beaufort scale). On January 21, 2018, the wind speed was recorded as 59 knots (force 10 on the Beaufort scale), which was the maximum recorded wind speed in the previous five years.
Weather broadcast by Marine Communications and Traffic Services
Environmental conditions information disseminated by ECCC can be collected by various authorities, such as the Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA) and the Port of Vancouver, which can further direct MCTS to distribute this information to crews. For vessels anchored in Vancouver Harbour, Constance Bank, and Prince Rupert Harbour, MCTS has procedures in place to issue weather broadcasts when the wind speed is more than 25 knots.
The weather broadcasts also advise crews to keep their main engine(s) on stand-by and the second anchor ready to be deployed. These procedures were put in place on behalf of the PPA, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, and Prince Rupert Harbour.
MCTS does not have any procedures in place to issue weather forecasts for vessels anchored in the Plumper Sound anchorages. Transport Canada is responsible for vessels anchored in Plumper Sound, but leaves it to individual crews to contact MCTS directly for updated weather forecasts in the area.
Managing the risk of dragging anchor
Between January 2015 and March 2020, a total of 102 dragging anchor occurrences along the BC coastline were reported to MCTS. When a vessel drags anchor, it can result in a collision, a grounding, or other emergency situations.
Golden Cecilie had an SMS manual that included guidance and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk of dragging anchor:
- While at anchor, the vessel’s crew should observe weather, tidal, and sea conditions and ensure the state of readiness of the main engines and other machinery as per the master’s instructions. The crew should also notify the master if the vessel drags its anchor and undertake all necessary measures.
- Weather forecasts should be used as much as possible to assess the weather conditions on arrival at the anchorage and while at anchor.
- To prevent anchor dragging, the crew should use sufficient chain length and take into consideration the prevailing and anticipated weather, tide, current, and draught conditions.
- The master and the bridge team should discuss the anchoring position, the holding ground, the water depth, the expected height of swell, the vessel draught, the duration of stay at anchor, the traffic situation, and the number of vessels at anchor and their proximity.
- When adverse weather is expected, the master and the bridge team should undertake a risk assessment to decide whether to remain at anchor or proceed at sea.
In this occurrence, the crew did not collect the daily local weather forecast for the day of occurrence from the very high frequency radio, weather fax, medium frequency-high frequency broadcast, nor did the crew obtain an up-to-date weather warning from local authorities such as ECCC or MCTS. As a consequence the crew did not follow established procedures to ready the vessel and crew for impending adverse weather conditions.
As well, factors that impact dragging an anchor had not been taken into consideration as per the SMS, and the emergency preparedness to respond to adverse weather was inadequate.
The Watchlist identifies the key safety issues that need to be addressed to make Canada’s transportation system even safer. Safety management is one of these issues and, in the marine sector, TSB investigations have found that, even when formal processes are present, they are often not effective in identifying hazards or reducing the risks.
Golden Cecilie‘s SMS was certified and audited by an approved authority. However, the investigation identified gaps in the effectiveness of safety management relating to the vessel’s preparedness for adverse weather.
Safety action taken
Following the occurrence, Golden Cecilie’s operator, SeaTeam Management, took the following safety action:
- The anchoring and anchor watch checklist was amended on May 1, 2020, to indicate that the master should be informed immediately if the barometric pressure drops by three mb during watch or if the wind speed exceeds 21 knots (force five on the Beaufort scale). In such circumstances, the engines are to be placed on standby and the deck watch is to monitor the anchor position.
- The checklist was also amended to specifically indicate the engine notice period as per the master’s instruction.
A notice was sent to the vessels informing them that they should be documenting the engine notice period, the state of readiness, and the position of the second anchor in the bridge log book.
- A “Safety Flash” bulletin was circulated to all vessel crewmembers stressing the importance of proper anchor watches and compliance with the SMS.
- Bridge resource management refresher training was arranged for bridge watch officers.
When vessels are at anchor, crews need to collect weather forecasts from all available sources in a timely manner; be aware of the risk factors that can lead to dragging anchor, in particular excessive freeboard and inadequate ballasting; and ensure that the main engines, anchors, and deck machinery are ready so that corrective action can be taken at the first sign of dragging anchor.