Distractions can lead to serious, potentially fatal, consequences.
What the reporter told us:
CHIRP received a report concerning the allision of a vessel with an offshore wind turbine tower. We attempted to clarify some points and gain more information, but the reporter declined to engage further. However, during our own investigation, the basic details of the allision were found in the public domain.
The Consequence of distraction.
(Photograph taken from the Flag State Administration Final Report – vessel name obscured)
The vessel involved was a service vessel engaged in transferring personnel between a shore base and wind turbines in offshore locations. The only other details initially available were that the hull had been breached at the bow and suffered water ingress, and that three persons on board sustained injury during the allision. The damaged vessel had then been escorted to port by an offshore lifeboat.
CHIRP attempted to contact the DPA and managers of the vessel, but they did not respond. We later learned that, following an investigation, the flag state administration had published a report into the incident. CHIRP contacted the flag state administration who readily engaged and welcomed promulgation of the report to a wider maritime audience.
From the final report: The service vessel had finished the day’s tasks and was released to return to port for the night; but whilst transiting through the wind farm at a speed of approximately 20 knots, it hit a tower. In the summary of findings, the final report notes “the primary reason why a proper lookout was not being kept was because the Master, who had the conduct of the vessel, was distracted from his primary role”.
The report contains images taken from the wheelhouse CCTV that show the captain looking to his right and downwards prior to impact with the rapidly closing tower.
View the full report at https://cdn.ports.je/web/2020-04-23-Njord-Forseti-Incident-report-FINAL.pdf
Nobody sets out to have an accident, nobody plans to be distracted. On this occasion it happened to be the master who had control of the vessel and was distracted, but anybody can become distracted and as a result could suffer the same consequence, or worse.
Distractions come in many different forms, from fleeting momentary ones to ongoing long-term distractions. This is particularly true if you consider the current COVID-19 pandemic where seafarers are being obliged to work much longer tours of duty than normal with possibly no prospect of relief on the horizon.
Modern, open bridges have many sources of potential distraction, including telephone calls both internal and external, numerous alarms – ECDIS, AIS, GMDSS, IAS (integrated alarm system), fire alarm control panel, ballast control system, CCTV systems and e-mail systems; so there can be little surprise that officers of the watch become distracted.
Some companies designate sea areas with high traffic density or numerous obstructions etc. to be Red Waters as opposed to areas of open sea with normal traffic density. The latter require normal levels of diligence whereas the former require heightened levels of attention and concentration. This may well require an additional person on the bridge as a dedicated lookout or even doubling-up of the watchkeepers. If that is not possible, one has to ask if there is a manning issue?
On virtually every vessel there are standing orders for both bridge and engine room personnel and those orders will usually include an instruction to call the Captain or C/E if required, and if in doubt to utilise an additional person. However, if the Captain or C/E have the watch, who do they call upon for back-up?