The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) recently published an investigation report into the grounding of a bulk carrier at Newcastle, Australia. This bulletin highlights findings and recommendations contained in the report, in order that lessons can be learned and future incidents prevented.
The grounding occurred an hour after the ship departed from an anchorage where her anchor was dragging in heavy weather. A gale warning had been issued forecasting winds of 45 knots gusting to 63 knots with high seas and a heavy swell. The anchorage is only suitable in good weather and nautical publications contain warnings about the local weather conditions, recommending that masters put to sea before conditions become severe. The gale warning should have prompted the master to ballast the ship for heavy weather and take it to sea.
The master got the ship underway after winds were gusting to nearly 50 knots and her anchor was dragging. For more than an hour the ship moved, in ballast, in a direction parallel to the coast about one mile away with an onshore wind. The grounding occurred when the master decided to alter course to put the wind on the other bow. The course change in the extreme weather was poorly controlled and put the ship on a heading whereby she was approaching the beach. Inevitably the vessel grounded with both anchors in their hawse pipes.
Contributing safety factors
The masters of the seven ships that put to sea before the onset of gale force winds demonstrated the highest levels of seamanship. They ensured that their ships, crew and the environment were not exposed to unnecessary risks in the accurately forecast adverse weather later.
The full report provides a detailed account of the incident and the many factors to be considered, all of which are not mentioned here. The report is available on the ATSB website and can be viewed using the following link http://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2007/MAIR/mair243.aspx
This bulletin highlights the importance of taking proper action in advance of and during adverse conditions. A vessel should not find itself purposely steaming one mile off and parallel to the coast-line in heavy weather.
Taking on ballast into cargo holds after the onset of heavy weather exposes a ship not only to manoeuvring difficulties but also structural damage caused by the water ballast sloshing in partly filled cargo holds. A number of ships at the anchorage in this incident were inappropriately ballasted for the forecast weather and were forced to take on board additional ballast after departing the anchorage.
Members should ensure their safety management systems and company policies address the concerns raised in this bulletin.
Source of information:
Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)