Preventive Actions To Take During Moorings Failure Due To Storm

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A recent news article published in the REPUBLIC OF THE MARSHALL ISLANDS brings out the VALARIS DS-4 CASUALTY INVESTIGATION REPORT.

What happened?

On 2 February 2021, the Republic of the Marshall Islands-registered drill ships VALARIS DS-4 and ENSCO DS-8, managed by Noah Ship Management DMCCO (Noah), were moored at the Hunterston Jetty, which is located at the southern end of the Clyde Estuary, on the Largs Channel, between Great Cumbrae Island and the Scottish mainland.

Both drill ships held a Provisional Certificate of Registry with the endorsement “This Certificate is Only Valid while the Vessel Remains in Laid-up Status and is Not Valid for Navigation.”

Offshore winds from the northeast had increased throughout the day and by 18002 were between 50-55 kn.

At about 1915, VALARIS DS-4’s moorings failed during storm force winds. The drill ship was blown off the jetty and drifted to the southwest until about 1923, when the anchor, which had previously been deployed as part of the VALARIS DS-4’s mooring arrangements, held.

This likely prevented the drill ship from going aground on Great Cumbrae Island, which was about 400 m to the west. VALARIS DS-4’s crew were able to start all but one of the drill ship’s diesel generators but did have difficulties bringing the bow and stern thrusters online. VALARIS DS-4 was re-moored at Hunterston Jetty on 8 February 2021 after the crewmembers were able to start all but one of the azimuth thrusters.

ENSCO DS-8 remained moored alongside the jetty with tug assistance and the use of its thrusters.

The marine safety investigation conducted by the Republic of the Marshall Islands Maritime Administrator (the “Administrator”)3 identified the following:

Causal factors that contributed to this marine incident include

(a) the inability of VALARIS DS-4’s crewmembers to bring the thrusters online in time to prevent the mooring lines from being overloaded by the storm force winds from the northeast; and
(b) the Master of VALARIS DS-4 did not request tug assistance when the weather forecast for storm force north easterly winds was received on the afternoon of 2 February 2021.

Additional causal factors

(a) inadequate coordination between Joulon Asset Management (Joulon) and Clydeport Operations Limited (COL) throughout the planning process for the lay-up of VALARIS DS-4 and ENSCO DS-8 at Hunterston Jetty;
(b) inadequate identification and consideration of local conditions, including the higher than forecast northeasterly and easterly winds, winter temperatures, and the time required for tugs to arrive after being requested, as part of Joulon’s risk assessment for berthing the drill ships alongside at Hunterston Jetty;
(c) inadequate identification of the drill ships’ power requirements during Joulon’s and Noah’s planning for the lay-up of VALARIS DS-4 and ENSCO DS-8 to ensure that a sufficient number of diesel generators and thrusters would be available if needed during a period of high winds or an emergency situation;
(d) the apparent deviation from the drill ships’ mooring plans when VALARIS DS-4 and ENSCO DS-8 were moored after being shifted along the jetty in late January 2021;
(e) the lack of third-party verification that VALARIS DS-4 and ENSCO DS-8 were moored in accordance with the drill ships’ mooring plans;
(f) with the exception of the drill ships’ mooring plans, the lack of third-party assurance of Joulon’s and Noah’s planning and execution of the lay-up of VALARIS DS-4 and ENSCO DS-8 at Hunterston Jetty;
(g) the lack of comprehensive flag State regulations intended to ensure the safety and security of laid-up vessels;
(h) the lack of flag State requirements for Republic of the Marshall Islands-registered vessels that are in lay-up to undergo inspections or other forms of oversight to verify they do not pose a safety or security hazard; and
(i) the absence of port State regulations intended to ensure the safety and security of ships laid-up in ports and harbors in the United Kingdom.

Actions or events that reduced the adverse consequences

(a) that VALARIS DS-4’s and ENSCO DS-8’s anchors had been pre-deployed when the drill ships were berthed at Hunterston Jetty and that VALARIS DS-4’s anchor was reset and held the drill ship in mid-channel after being blown off the jetty following the loss of moorings; and

(b) the arrival of tugs to hold ENSCO DS-8 alongside the berth.

Recommendations

The following Recommendations are based on the above Conclusions and in consideration of the Preventive Actions taken.

1. It is recommended that Joulon and Noah:
(a) review and revise their procedures for planning for vessel lay-ups taking the lessons learned from this marine incident into account.

2. It is recommended that Peel Ports:
(a) propose guidance on planning and conducting of vessel lay-up in ports in the United Kingdom to the MCA’s PMSC Steering Group, for inclusion in the PMSC’s Guide to Good Practice.

3. It is recommended that the Administrator:
(a) develop additional regulatory requirements that take different lay-up conditions into account to ensure the safety of Republic of the Marshall Islands-registered vessels that are placed in lay-up and crews on board such vessels; and
(b) review, and revise where required, internal procedures related to oversight of compliance with established requirements for vessels in lay-up.

4. It is recommended that the MCA, in coordination with the PMSC Steering Group:
(a) consider publishing guidance on the planning and conducting of vessel lay-ups in ports in the United Kingdom, for inclusion in the PMSC’s Guide to Good Practice.

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Source: Republic of Marshal Islands

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