Multiple planning errors led to ULCV grounding near Southampton

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released a report detailing multiple planning errors that led to 17,859 teu CMA CGM Vasco de Gama (IMO 9706889) becoming grounded while approaching the Port of Southampton.

Vasco de Gama, a 399-metre long ULCV – the largest UK-flagged vessel at the time – had two of the port’s specialist container ship pilots on board when it ran aground on a flat shingle sea-bed on the western side of the Thorn Channel during the early hours of August 22nd, 2016. She was soon refloated, undamaged, using tugs and her own power.

MAIB said that “on the surface, it might appear that the grounding was simply the result of a misjudgment by one person, the lead pilot; however, there were several underlying factors that contributed to this accident. These included weaknesses and shortcomings in passage planning, bridge resource management and external oversight.”

MAIB found that the grounding occurred because the vessel was too far north of the intended track when it began the turn into the Thorn Channel. This reduced the available sea room and, given the environmental conditions, the vessel was unable to sustain the rate of turn required to remain in the dredged channel. MAIB said that the execution of the Bramble Bank turn was known to be hazardous for large vessels.

In addition, the execution of the turn was not in accordance with the port’s guidance for large inbound vessels. Vasco de Gama’s bridge team, assistant pilot and the Vessel Traffic Services, could not usefully monitor the lead pilot’s actions, or the vessel’s progress through the Precautionary Area. This was because:

  • a detailed pilotage plan had not been produced;
  • the lead pilot’s intended manoeuvre around Bramble Bank was not explained;
  • the bridge team roles and responsibilities were unclear;
  • and the electronic navigation aids on board were not fully utilized.

MAIB said that the vessel’s bridge team and the port’s pilots had the experience, knowledge and resources available to plan and execute the passage effectively, but that the standards of navigation, communication and effective use of the electronic charting aids onboard did not meet the expectations of the port or the company.

Vasco de Gama had a crew of 28 and, in addition to the two pilots, was carrying one passenger. The vessel’s officers were Romanian and its ratings were Filipino.

The two pilots who boarded the ULCV were British nationals and each held a Class 1 Unrestricted pilot’s licence. The lead pilot had been employed by the ABP Southampton for 16 years. The assistant pilot had been employed by the ABP Southampton for 14 years.

MAIB noted that actions had been taken by CMA Ships and by Associated British Ports to address some of the issues identified in the report and to improve navigational safety. It said that the findings of the report would be used by the MAIB as part of a safety study that will investigate the use of modern electronic navigation aids on board merchant vessels, and the impact they have had on navigation practices.

As a result of the incident, CMA Ships has:

  • Distributed a safety bulletin to all of its larger vessels reminding them of the hazards associated with the execution of the Bramble Bank turn.
  • Implemented mandatory computer-based bridge resource management training for all bridge officers at the start of each vessel contract.
  • Implemented ‘Port Approach Training’ for its masters and chief officers.

ABP Southampton has on its own account:

  • Reviewed its Port Users Information and Navigational Guidelines and undertaken to update the requirements for large vessels passing each other prior to entry into the Precautionary Area.
  • Documented the role and function of the assistant pilot.
  • Introduced a process for the continual assessment of Class 1 pilots; including annual check rides.
  • Introduced a line on the VTS radar in order to give a distance north of the baseline.
  • Commenced work toward implementation of bridge resource management training for all pilots.
  • In addition to the ADX PPUs in service, issued each pilot with a tablet computer pre-loaded with piloting software, linked to a dedicated server with information accessible to the VTS watch manager for remote monitoring.

2015-built, UK-flagged, 178,228 gt Vasco de Gama is owned by CHC Second Shipping SA care of manager CMA CGM SA of Marseille, France. ISM manager is CMA Ships of Marseille. It is entered with North of England P&I Club on behalf of CHC Second Shipping SA.