Lessons Learned: Alarms That Support A Watchkeeping Engineer


UK MAIB reports in its most recent Safety Digest, a general cargo ship was departing a busy anchorage when a mishap nearly resulted in a serious accident.

The Incident

The ship had a single main engine, which supplied propulsion and provided power to a bow thruster via an alternator. The main engine stopped shortly after the ship was underway, causing loss of both propulsion and the bow thruster. The ship slowed and swung to starboard where it brushed against an anchored and fully laden liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier. The cargo ship’s crew were able to quickly restart the engine, manoeuvre away from the LNG carrier and proceed back to the anchorage to conduct investigations.

There was undoubtedly a red face in the engine room when the chief engineer (C/E) realised that the engine had stopped because the fuel supply pump had
not been started up as the ship was prepared for departure. The engine had run just long enough on the fuel in the system for the ship to lift the anchor before it stopped. The cargo ship sustained damage to its foredeck bulwarks and the LNG carrier incurred minor scrapes to the ship’s side. Fortunately, only the C/E’s pride was hurt.

Lessons learned

  • Procedure → The general cargo ship’s pre-departure procedure incorporated a checklist of the tasks that needed to be completed for the ship to be ready. When followed, a checklist can help to make sure these critical steps are performed. Checklists should be reviewed regularly and updated to suit the operation of a ship.
  • Observe → There are various alarms and displays that support a watchkeeping engineer. In this case, the alarm indicating a low fuel pressure had not cleared since it first sounded when the system was shut down on arrival at the anchorage, and the fuel pressure reading for the engine was zero. The information to indicate that something was amiss went unseen because the parameters were not actively scrutinised.

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Source: MAIB