Transport Malta has issued an investigation report on the alleged collision of MT Minerva Pisces with fishing trawler Zhe Pu Yu which occurred on January 13, 2016.
At that date, the OWW observed a number of fishing boats forming a large group two nautical miles from Minerva Pisces, moving at a speed of eight knots, on course of 074° and crossing from port to starboard. The boats were reportedly not engaged in fishing. The OOW stated that he flashed the Aldis Lamp in the direction of the boats. The OOW reported that one boat crossed the vessel’s bow at a very close range. He quickly changed to hand steering and ordered the AB to put the helm to port. The OOW stated that he then moved to the bridge wing and saw the fishing boat passing clear on the starboard side.
Image at 0038/49s showing fishing boat – AIS target ‘B’ running across the bow of Minerva Pisces
The MSIU has no compelling evidence to confirm that physical contact was made between the two vessels. However, the echo of one of the fishing boat was lost on the radar whilst crossing Minerva Pisces bow. The MSIU has issued one recommendation to the Company, designed to ensure that the importance of crossing situations is highlighted on board Company managed vessel.
Evidence of collision, or not?
The MSIU had very unclear evidence for analysis during the course of the safety investigation. The OOW and the look-out were convinced that their ship was never involved in a collision during their watch.
Image at 0041/03s showing radar echo of fishing boat on the port bow of Minerva Pisces identified by AIS target ‘C’
The MSIU is unaware of any tests carried out on paint samples from the vessel and the wreck. In fact, initially, the MSIU did not have any evidence to confirm whether the wreck had eventually been found and lifted until the consultation stage of the safety investigation when it was confirmed by Chinese authorities that the fishing boat’s wreck had been found but not lifted, and paint samples taken from Minerva Pisces.
It was very clear, however, that after Minerva Pisces cleared the fishing boats, one of the radar echoes and its AIS signal were subsequently lost. As yet, there was no compelling evidence that potentially this was either due to actual physical contact or swamping, say, by the bow waves generated by the vessel. Taking into consideration the VDR voice recordings and the concerns on the event expressed by the OOW and the look-out, the MSIU believes that Minerva Pisces was the vessel in very close proximity of the fishing boat just before the AIS target was lost.
Data extracted from the VDR of the vessel at the time of the alleged accident
Radar image at 0043/30s showing AIS target ‘C’ (without radar echo) astern of Minerva Pisces
- The compass bearings of the fishing boats remained steady and with no action taken, a close quarter situation was inevitable;
- The fishing boats under power and in sight of one another were approaching Minerva Pisces in a crossing situation, as defined by regulation 15 of the COLREGs;
- The fishing boats were on Minerva Pisces’ port bow and in accordance with regulation 16 of the COLREGs, they were required to give way to Minerva Pisces;
- A risk of collision existed and at a two nautical mile range, it had become apparent that the fishing boats had not taken any collision avoidance action;
- The OOW on Minerva Pisces did not sound a warning signal (at least five short and rapid blasts on the whistle) to indicate his doubt and to clarify the fishing boats’ intentions;
- The OOW did not alter course and / or speed to maintain a 1.5 nautical mile passing distance;
- The OOW did not take any actions in accordance with regulation 17(a)(iii) and 17(b) of the COLREGs
- From the evidence made available to the MSIU, it was neither possible to reconstruct precisely what subsequently happened nor determine the ensuing loss of radar and AIS signal of target ‘C’ captured by the ship’s VDR;
- The MSIU believes that Minerva Pisces was the vessel in very close proximity of the fishing boat just before it was lost;
- Irrelevant of whether or not the collision has actually occurred, the efforts done by the OOW in trying to understand the circumstances and react to them were taken at a very late stage, with the CPA reducing continuously;
- It was hypothesised that the OOW’s expectations, with respect to the actions by the fishing boats, would have had a significant influence on his decision-making process, as much as the perceived risk of the collision and the predicted outcome
Radar image at 0049/30s showing position of lost AIS target ‘C’
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Source: Transport Malta