Task Deviation Causes Grounding & Stranding Of Cargo Vessel

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Transport Malta’s Marine Safety Investigation Unit has issued an investigation report into the grounding and stranding of the Maltese-registered general cargo, ATLANTA on the island of Agios Theodoros, Greece, on 29th April 2023.

The incident

In the early hours of 29 April 2023, Atlanta was en route from the port of Nea Karvali, Greece, to the port Iskenderun, Türkiye, in laden condition. The second officer was keeping a sole navigational watch. The bridge navigational watch alarm system was off.

As the second officer was due to be relieved at Iskenderun, he commenced the preparation for his handover report during his navigational watch, thus allowing himself time to complete the several administrative tasks that were assigned to him, before his relief. As the vessel approached the waypoint at which an alteration of course to port side had been planned, the second officer decided to delay the course alteration due to the presence of another vessel on the port bow, on a reciprocal course. He then resumed with the preparation of his handover report.

Atlanta continued off the planned course and eventually ran aground and remained stranded on the Northwest coast of Agios Theodoros, Greece. The vessel sustained several hull breaches in way of three forward compartments, with water ingress. Atlanta was refloated on 09 May 2023 and following temporary repairs, it continued under its own power to unload its cargo at Iskenderun. It then proceeded to a shipyard in Greece, for permanent repairs, which were completed on 30 September 2023.

Purpose

The purpose of a marine safety investigation is to determine the circumstances and safety factors of the accident as a basis for making recommendations, to prevent further marine casualties or incidents from occurring in the future.

Cause of the Grounding

Atlanta ran aground after the course was not altered at the designated waypoint and consequently, the vessel proceeded towards the shoreline because the second officer was alone on the bridge, occupied with administrative tasks in the radio room.

Conclusions

Findings and safety factors are not listed in any order of priority.

Immediate Causes of the Accident

Atlanta’s course was not altered at the waypoint, remaining unaltered when the vessel ran aground, and stranded on the Northwest coast of Agios Theodoros.

Conditions and other Safety Factors

  • The OOW was carrying out administrative tasks on the bridge computer in the radio room, as he intended to have all his paperwork in order, prior to his relief at the vessel’s next port of call.
  • Although the OOW was aware that the administrative tasks were not urgent; he was concerned that the volume of the tasks to be completed was large.
  • The OOW’s administrative tasks and the navigational watchkeeping duties resulted in frequent task switching, initially, and eventually led to task
    deviation.
  • The safety investigation believes that the OOW’s decision to carry out the administrative tasks was based on his mental assessment of the navigational situation, and his decision was influenced by his own drive and motivation to complete the administrative tasks.
  • The OOW was keeping a sole navigational watch.
  • The BNWAS was not on, around the time of the occurrence.
  • The quiet bridge, with the absence of other crew members, and the lack of any alarms, also allowed the second officer to focus on his administrative tasks and eventually get carried away with executing them.

Actions taken

Safety Actions Taken During the Course of the Safety Investigation

Following the occurrence, the Company:

  • issued a circular to its fleet, with information on the grounding and reminded the vessel’s masters of the navigational watch procedures to be followed;
  • revised its master’s Standing Orders to address the matter of sole navigational watches, and revised its bridge checklists to include checks of the BNWAS; and
  • introduced procedures that required all four navigational officers to undertake additional, specialized training and familiarization with navigational watch requirements, prior to joining the Company’s vessels.

Recommendations

The Company is recommended to:

  • carry out a fleet-wide exercise to observe, understand and address the factors that lead crew members to deviate from Company procedures related to navigational watchkeeping, including ancillary tasks, manning on the bridge during hours of light and darkness, and the use of navigational aids on the bridge.
  • carry out service on the VDR to ensure that its recorded audio data is audible.

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Source: Transport Malta