Lessons Learnt: Grounding in congested waters

Date: 07/06/2017
Source: Loss Prevention

Vessel Type: Dry cargo vessel

Incident description:

During an overtaking manoeuvre in a busy traffic separation scheme, the subject vessel grounded on a reef while making 22 knots.

Conditions: night-time, good visibility, heavy traffic. Bridge manning: Master, Chief Officer (C/O) with the conn and helmsman. Steering was on autopilot and the engine room was unmanned.

The vessel was overtaking another ship on her own port side which brought her outside the traffic separation scheme by a considerable distance and well off her intended course line. The ship being overtaken was proceeding at about 18 knots. 

The C/O was aware of the presence of a reef ahead but misjudged the situation and thought that he would have enough time to overtake the other ship and return to the traffic lane before reaching the reef.

The local VTIS tried to warn the vessel that they were heading into dangerous waters but their message was not received as the VHF on the bridge had its volume control turned down.

The Master, though present on bridge, was distracted and was not monitoring the navigation of the vessel. He only noticed the light on the reef moments prior to grounding. A last minute alteration of course to port was attempted by the C/O, but this was unsuccessful.

Lessons Learned:

  • Failure to comply with COLREGS.
  • Overtaking should only be carried out when it is safe to do so. If it is not safe, then speed should be adjusted until sea room is sufficient to execute the manoeuvre safely.
  • In these circumstances, both a helmsman and additionally assigned lookout should be present on the bridge.
  • A proper lookout should be maintained at all times and using all available means to provide situational awareness.
  • The VHF should have been audible to all on the bridge and regular position fixing and parallel index techniques performed by the officer of the watch.
  • The departure from the passage plan and intended manoeuvre should have been discussed with the Master

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