Watchkeepers Failed! Ships Collided



On 29 August 2015, in daylight and good visibility, the cargo ship Daroja and the bunker barge Erin Wood collided just east of Peterhead, Scotland. Erin Wood was badly damaged and its crew put in danger; there was also some minor pollution from leaking fuel cargo. The accident happened because a proper lookout was not being kept on either vessel. This meant that watchkeepers in both the vessels were unaware of the risk of collision and took no action to avoid the other ship.


Actions Taken

United Shipping Companies Barnkrug GmbH & Co.KG has:

  • Conducted an internal investigation to identify the casual factors of the accident.
  • Updated Daroja’s Safety Management System to include:
    1. further guidance on the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices
    2. updated advice on bridge watchkeeping standards.
  • Brought to the attention of all navigation officers, the requirement for the BNWAS to remain on at all times when the vessel is at sea and steering by autopilot.
  • Improved the OOW’s visibility from the bridge chair on Daroja by raising it approximately 30cm.


The St Kitts and Nevis International Ship Registry has:

  • Implemented procedures that ensure relevant Flag State operating restrictions are included on vessels’ minimum safe manning certificates.

Safety Issues


  • Avoiding collision starts with keeping a good lookout in order to detect other vessels and assess the situation. This is a key principle of safe navigation and should be maintained by all ships at all times.
  • Similar to previous MAIB investigations, this accident highlights the potential consequences when the risks associated with the Officer of the Watch (OOW) being the sole lookout are not effectively addressed.
  • A high standard of watchkeeping involves using all the information available on the bridge to build and maintain a good picture. In this case radar, visual and Automatic Identification System (AIS) information could have been utilised more effectively on both ships.
  • The flooding of Erin Wood happened because the vessel was underway with both the upper deck weathertight doors open. Care should always be taken at sea and watertight or weathertight doors should not be left open unnecessarily.



  • Daroja and Erin Wood collided because a proper lookout was not being kept on either vessel.
  • On board Daroja, the chief officer, who was the OOW, missed multiple opportunities to detect Erin Wood; this happened because he had become complacent about his watchkeeping duties and allowed himself to become distracted.
  • Complacency and poor watchkeeping practices were systemic on board Daroja. This was largely due to the repetitive nature of its trading route and a lack of mentorship and direction from the vessel’s master.
  • Although Erin Wood’s skipper was aware of the presence of another vessel, he did not effectively assess the situation and assumed a larger vessel would keep clear.
  • Lone watchkeeping was a normal practice in both vessels and the risks associated with this had not been properly assessed.
  • The lives of Erin Wood’s crew were placed in significant danger. The skipper’s presence of mind to escape from the flooded bridge, and the deckhand managing to hold on to the bulwark to prevent being washed completely overboard, are actions that probably saved their lives.
  • The flooding of Erin Wood’s bridge, accommodation spaces and engine room would have been prevented if the upper deck weathertight doors had been shut.
  • Erin Wood’s crew did not have the competence necessary to operate a small coastal tanker; the vessel was also not provided with an effective safety management system.



The St Kitts and Nevis International Ship Registry is recommended to:

Ensure that, for vessels applying to join the Registry:

  1. A Flag State inspection of the vessel takes place to review compliance with relevant regulations.
  2. Manning negotiations with owners/managers take into account all relevant factors set out in the IMO Principles of Safe Manning.

Northern Oils (Scotland) Limited is recommended to:

Develop a company safety management system to ensure that:

  1. All company vessels are safely manned to meet the requirements of international and national regulations.
  2. Vessel crews are suitably trained, qualified and experienced to operate the company’s vessels.
  3. Shore-based staff are suitably trained and experienced to manage a fleet of small tankers.

United Shipping Companies Barnkrug GmbH & Co.KG is recommended to:

Improve standards of bridge watchkeeping by introducing measures to ensure that:

  1. On each occasion prior to lone watchkeeping, all relevant factors are considered in accordance with the ICS Bridge Procedures Guide.
  2. Standards of onboard bridge team monitoring are reviewed in order to ensure that watchkeepers are effectively supervised and watchkeeping standards maintained, in particular: the effective use of all bridge navigational aids and alarms.

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Source: Marine Accident Investigation Branch


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