Inadequate maintenance and poor voyage planning led to the grounding of bunkering tanker Arca 1 in January 2017 near Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, according a report from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).
On December 31st 2016 the vessel departed Sorel, Quebec with the master, the second mate, the new chief mate, a motorman, and two able seamen on board. On January 3rd 2017 the vessel diverted to Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, due to a failure of a fuel injector on the starboard main engine. The repairs to the starboard main engine were completed on January 6th and she departed on the morning of January 7th.
Some six hours into the journey, the tachometer reading for the port main engine dropped to zero rpm. The motorman left the bridge to check the tachometer reading on the engine. Upon arriving at the engine, the motorman noticed a burning smell. The port propulsion clutch was slipping, which had resulted in overheating of the clutch, its housing, and the engine flywheel. The master was informed of the issue and placed the propeller at 90° to the stern to provide better steerage; he shut down the port engine.
Encountering heavy weather by early on January 8th, Arca 1 could not make headway, and the southeasterly winds of approximately 30 to 50 knots pushed the vessel westwards toward the shoreline.
A couple of hours later a pilot who was supposed to board the vessel at the entrance of Sydney Harbour informed Sydney Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) that Arca 1 could not be boarded due to the strong winds and high seas.
Shortly after this the Halifax Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) contacted the vessel by cellphone and asked if they wanted to declare distress. The master confirmed, and Halifax JRCC forwarded the information to Sydney MCTS, which then broadcast the distress call and tasked several Canadian Coast Guard vessels to assist.
The crew then dropped the vessel’s only anchor in an attempt to hold the vessel’s position. For a short while the Arca 1 held her position with the anchor and the power of the remaining operable engine, but shortly afterward the anchor started to drag. The crew then raised the anchor to reset it. However, before they had a chance to do so, the vessel hit bottom, damaging the starboard Z-drive. This meant that she lost all means of propulsion. The anchor was dropped again but could not hold, and the vessel grounded shortly after. The master contacted Sydney MCTS and informed them that the vessel had grounded at Little Pond, Nova Scotia.
On January 15th the vessel was refloated and towed to Sydney, Canada.
When the vessel contacted the bottom, causing the destruction of the starboard transmission, the outer hull was indented, and several transverse members sustained damage. There were no injuries to the six people on board and there was no pollution.
TSB found that the tension on the main propulsion clutch was not checked and adjusted before or during the voyage and as a result the clutch failed due to slippage. The loss of speed increased the time required to reach Sydney, preventing the vessel’s arrival before the weather deteriorated. TSB noted that “although the master estimated that the voyage to Sydney, Nova Scotia, would take 12 hours, in reality 15 hours would have been required. This additional 3 hours of transit shortened the time available for the vessel to arrive at Sydney before the weather deteriorated.”
TSB’s investigation also found that the master was not qualified to act as master of the vessel and the motorman was not qualified to act as chief engineer. The master carried on assuming the role of master during the voyage and made critical decisions, such as the decision to sail on the day of the occurrence. Because he did not serve the role of chief engineer, for which he was qualified, the primary oversight of the mechanical systems during the voyage was left to the motorman, who was not a qualified chief engineer.”
Voyage planning was carried out in a manner that was not consistent with best practice, as contingencies and limitations were not taken into account. If crew members were not qualified for the positions to which they are assigned, they might not carry out these duties effectively, increasing the risk of an accident or injury, TSB said. It also noted that “the decision to sail (from Îles-de-la-Madeleine) was not consistent with the limitations imposed on the vessel in its Single Voyage for Delivery Authorization, given that seas in excess of 4 m were forecast to develop within 24 hours.