Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
On 6 November 2017, the fully laden, mini cape-size dry bulk carrier Orient Centaur was transiting the South Channel, Weipa, Queensland, outbound under the conduct of harbour pilots as part of a trial introduction of this size of ship to the port. While in the South Channel, the ship’s main engine shut down due to a loss of water from a cracked engine cooling component, and propulsion was lost. Shortly after, the ship grounded on the northern batter of the channel. The stern then slowly swung across the channel and grounded on the southern batter.
Under the guidance of the harbour pilots, three tugs were used to successfully refloat the ship. The ship was subsequently towed out of the channel to an anchorage. Surveys conducted over the following days identified that the ship did not sustain any damage.
What the ATSB found
The ATSB found that the approval process for this size of ship had only considered the risks associated with a main engine failure before the departing ship’s entry into the narrow South Channel. The port risk assessment did not require the use of an escort tug for any ships transiting the South Channel during outbound voyages, and the tug masters had not been trained in the specifics of escort towage nor in emergency response.
What has been done as a result
The ship’s managers advised there is now weekly on board testing of cooling water and every six months at a shore laboratory. Also, only manufacturers’ original spares are to be used during maintenance.
In addition to the trial conditions, an escort tug is now used for all departing bulk carriers. All departing ships over 200 m now have an escort tug made fast, from the wharf to the South Channel exit. Further, two continuously manned, 85 tonne bollard pull azimuth stern drive tugs are now based at the Port of Amrun, about 60 minutes steaming time from the Port of Weipa.
All pilots and tug masters have completed emergency response and escort towage training at the Smartship simulator. The training included emergency towage scenarios, positioning and use of tugs in an emergency, competency in standard escort tug manoeuvres and indirect towage.
Arrival and departure briefs developed for the Port of Weipa have been updated with safety settings for the electronic chart display and information system, tidal information, weather conditions, wind limits and tug positions/line lengths. All masters and ship bridge teams are briefed before arrival and departure.
The introduction of this size of ship to the Port of Weipa was preceded by identification, and risk assessment, of a number of hazards.
However, aspects of tug escort and the potential for malfunction of the heavily‑laden ships within the confined channel were not considered.
This occurrence highlights the importance of considering potential hazards from end to end in order to provide the best opportunity to manage safety risk.
ATSB Director of Transport Safety Stuart Macleod said that the incident highlighted the value of comprehensive risk assessments: ‘In pre-trial simulations, the risks associated with engine failure during departure were only considered up to when a ship had entered the channel.’
Consequently, the tugs were not in attendance to assist if propulsion was lost. Additionally, the tug masters had not been trained in the specifics of escort towage, nor in emergency response.
Macleod concluded by saying: ‘This occurrence highlights the importance of considering potential hazards from end to end in order to provide the best opportunity to manage safety risk.’
Readers will see the 28-page investigation report MO-2017-010: Grounding of the bulk carrier Orient Centaur, Weipa, Queensland on 6 November 2017 here: http://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2017/mair/336-mo-2017-010/
This document was issued on 14 November last.
Source: Australian Transport Safety Bureau
Our picture shows a Carnival line up. Five Carnival ships are due in Durban in week commencing 24 May. (Photo: www.africaports.co.za )
No less than five Carnival Cruise ships are due to arrive in Durban between 26 and 28 May to take on bunkers and to restock depleted supplies.
These five ships are part of a group of 12 engaged in the humanitarian task of repatriating over 26,000 crew from the Carnival fleet and other companies, as well as personnel from entertainment centres ashore, who because of the coronavirus pandemic, have had their employment suddenly curtailed.
Hotel staff and entertainers
These are the entertainment staff, the onboard shop workers, beauty salon practitioners, waiters and bus boys, chefs and kitchen staff, cabin cleaners, pursers and front desk people all making up the staff working on board cruise ships.
With cruising curtailed these former employees are finally returning home to destinations like India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines after having remained on board their ships for more than two months, unable to go ashore or receive visitors ever since cruising operations were suspended in mid -March. Ahead they face another three or four weeks at sea before being allowed to disembark. However, there’s something of a problem.
Call to governments
IFSMA* calls upon Governments to adopt the ‘Framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic’ without delay to allow ship owners and management companies to change over their dangerously tired crews.
Governments must act now in order to avoid personal injury to, and mental breakdown of, seafarers and avoid the significant risk of accidents and consequential danger to life and the environment.
Concern at IFSMA
IFSMA is receiving an increasing number of reports from its ship masters’ associations around the world concerned for the welfare and safety of crews and the increased risk with which they are operating in an already high risk environment. Seafarers are feeling let down and abandoned by their Governments.
Following concerns from the maritime industry, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) issued a circular to all Member States, the UN and agencies and IGOs and NGOs in consultative status with IMO. This document concerned recommendations to Member States about measures to facilitate ship crew changes in seaports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IMO Secretary General has received a framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the pandemic, proposed by a cross-section of global industry associations in consultative status with the IMO, for example: ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IFSMA, and P&I Clubs as well as the International Air Transport Association (IATA).