VHF Conversation Failure! Bridge Teams Conflicting Plans Resulted in Collision

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Summary

On 1st July 2017, two Hong Kong registered vessels, the bulk carrier Huayang Endeavour and the oil tanker Seafrontier, collided in the Dover Strait approximately 5 nautical miles to the west of Sandettie Bank. Both vessels were damaged in the collision but were able to proceed to nearby ports for damage assessment. The accident did not result in any injuries or pollution.

The MAIB investigation identified that a Very High Frequency (VHF) radio conversation between the two vessels had resulted in the two bridge teams holding conflicting views as to what had been agreed regarding Huayang Endeavour overtaking Seafrontier. Subsequently, Seafrontier’s bridge team did not check for sea room astern before altering course, leading to a close quarter situation between the two vessels.

In addition, Seafrontier’s master had been present on the bridge for over 14 hours and was probably suffering from fatigue, which was likely to have had an adverse effect on his decision making.

Damage

Huayang Endeavour sustained damage to the hull plating on the starboard side of the bow, with penetrations into the forecastle store and forward void space. The starboard hull plating was indented along its entire length.

Seafrontier suffered significant damage to the port side accommodation, which was damaged over five decks. The port rescue boat and davit were extensively damaged, rendering them unusable, and one set of external stairs was totally removed. The internal structure was significantly damaged and it was fortunate that there were no injuries or pollution.

Action Taken

  • Completed its internal investigation.
  • Issued a circular to its fleet that details the lessons learnt from this accident. •
  • Held a seminar to promulgate the lessons learnt to its officers.
  • Amended its procedures on the use of VHF for collision avoidance, taking into account the guidance provided by the International Chamber of Shipping’s Bridge Procedures Guide, the IMO’s Standard Marine Communication Phrases and the lessons from this accident.

Conclusions

  1. It is considered very likely that a combination of fatigue and high mental loading would have affected Seafrontier’s master’s decision making and reaction times at the time of the accident.
  2. The lack of long-range scanning by Huayang Endeavour’s bridge team led to a late attempt at collision avoidance through VHF communication.
  3. The VHF conversation between Huayang Endeavour and Seafrontier was confusing, did not use SMCP terminology, and resulted in the two bridge teams developing conflicting plans while believing that they understood the intentions of the other.
  4. Seafrontier’s bridge team altered course to port without first assessing the available sea room astern.
  5. Neither vessel made sound signals, losing the opportunity to alert the other to their intentions.

Recommendations

In view of the actions already taken, no recommendations have been made.

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Source: MAIB

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