Early Swing of the Vessel’s Bow Results in Grounding



On 25 July 2016, the Maltese registered passenger ship Horizon ran aground on the rocky bank ‘Plentinggrunnen’ soon after departing her berth in Stavanger, Norway. At the time of the accident, she had 1615 passengers and 612 crew members on board. The vessel, whose forward draught was 7.55 m, grounded on a marked shoal that was charted at 5.3 m.

Following the grounding, the vessel used her own propulsion to come off the shoal but these attempts were unsuccessful. The master then requested the assistance of a tug, which was able to pull her off the shoal. Horizon was able to re-berth and assess the damage.

The vessel sustained hull damage to the port side bottom and keel forward. This consisted of ruptures to the forepeak tank and the ballast water deep tank no. 2. Temporary underwater repairs were made to the vessel and Horizon was able to sail after 30 hours to complete her cruise.

The safety investigation concluded that the grounding occurred because the planned swing of the vessel’s bow to port was initiated early.

The MSIU has made a number of recommendations to the managers of Horizon, Pullmantur Cruise Ship Management Ltd., aimed at improving the safety of navigation on board vessels under its management.

Probable Cause

The grounding occurred because the planned swing of the vessel’s bow to port was initiated early, i.e., when the distance to the South spar mark was only 30 m.

Action Taken

The Company took a series of safety actions as a result of this accident. The Company has reinforced the importance of good bridge resource management (BRM) practices and the need to follow the Navigation Policy & Procedure (NPP) Manual at all times to avoid incidents and accidents. A ‘lessons learned’ report was distributed through the reporting system so that all ships can learn from this accident.

Moreover, the Company has embarked on a project to amend and enhance the handover policy and handover templates across the fleet. It is anticipated that the implementation of the new policy will be initiated towards the end of 2017.


  1. The swing became even more complex because the shoal extended a further 60 m to 70 m Northwest of the spar mark;
  2. Soon after the use of the bow thruster to swing to port, the wheel was put to port and the engines run ahead, which would have further decreased the clearing distance to the shoal because of the generated headway;
  3. The vessel did not come astern by the 100 m distance specified in the predeparture guideline;
  4. The crew members weren’t excluded from executing the manouevre and may have not been aware of the 100 m distance;
  5. No one intervened when the crew member executing the manoeuvre communicated his intention to clear the spar mark when it was just at a distance of 30 m;
  6. The master and the pilot did not get the necessary information which would have indicated the vessel’s position as with regards to its close proximity of the shallows;
  7. The situation was more of a reception failure, where the communication channel existed, the critical information was passed, but it was either misinterpreted or not understood altogether;
  8. The presence of two master mariners on the bridge (and the pilot) may have influenced the extent of interaction between the OOWs and the rest of the bridge team;
  9. The bridge team members did not share a common mental model on the way the manoeuvre was evolving. 


In view of the conclusions reached and taking into consideration the safety actions taken during the course of the safety investigation,

Pullmantur Cruise Ship Management is recommended to:

  • undertake a series of navigation audits and observations on board its manned vessels in order to better understand the dynamics of bridge team members and address any identified issues

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Source: Transport Malta


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