Newly promoted Captain “point of failure” in RoRo grounding: MAIB

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has said that a newly promoted Captain became the single-point of failure because of a lack of support from his bridge team in the grounding of the RoRo Seatruck Performance (IMO 9506227) in Northern Ireland last year.

Seatruck Performance grounded just before midnight on May 8th 2019 while she was transiting the Greenore Channel soon after departing Warrenpoint for passage to Heysham, England. The vessel but quickly developed a 7° list to port from a large breach on the ferry’s port side hull. The vessel was able to return to Warrenpoint without assistance and there were no injuries to its 11 passengers and 22 crew.

The MAIB investigation said that “the ferry’s outbound passage had not been sufficiently planned and, specifically, the effects of squat had not been adequately considered; the electronic navigation system was not being used effectively; and the newly appointed master, who was mainly navigating by eye, was not being effectively supported by the other officers on the bridge.”

The MAIB noted that the 52-year-old Polish captain had just been promoted to Master after serving for seven years as a chief officer. He was familiar with the route, having done it on 10 occasions in the past, but the May 8th voyage was his first in command of the ship, following a two-day handover.

The report noted that the master accepted the promotion on the condition of a six-month trial period where he would be allowed to return to chief officer “if he felt uncomfortable with the additional responsibilities of command, particularly in the winter months,” the report said. He did not sleep well the night before the voyage.

The vessel’s heading was altered later than intended and the ferry grounded after entering the western end of the Greenore Channel. Visibility was good and the buoys were lit. “However, unlike the previous departures, the master had ultimate responsibility, and his apparent hesitancy to continue the turn to starboard in the half-minute between 2241:51 and 2242:23 was possibly influenced by the pressure of the situation”, said the MAIB.

The MAIB concluded that the master’s insistence on taking command only for a trial period and the fact that he delegated shiphandling to the chief officer during the ferry’s arrival in Warrenpoint suggested that “he was nervous and/or not confident”. It was the master’s first departure from Warrenpoint in command, it was dark, had slept badly and had not rested during the day.

The MAIB recommended to Seatruck Ferries to “take further measures to enhance the safe navigation of its vessels by optimising its use of electronic navigation systems to provide real time positional information, and enhancing its Bridge Resource”.

2012-built, Isle of Man-flagged, 19,722 gt Seatruck Performance is owned by Seatruck Shipholding IV Ltd care of manager Seatruck Ferries Ltd of Heysham, Newcastle. It is entered with North Of England Club on behalf of Seatruck Shipholding IV Ltd.