Tugboat chief officer jailed over collision at sea

A chief officer of a tugboat has been jailed in Singapore for seven months after an incident on February 7th 2019 that led to the drowning of two of the Indonesian national’s crew members.

The prosecution compared the manoeuvre that led to the incident to cutting across lanes in an expressway. The tugboat was pulling a poorly lit barge across a busy sea channel when it did not have the right of way. This resulted in a collision with a tanker led to the two crew drowning Mr Iswahyudi, 40, pled guilty to one charge of causing the deaths of 38-year-old Indonesian chief engineer Budi Setiyoko and fellow Indonesian seaman Dodi Maulana, 37.

The negligence, which the court said did not amount to culpable homicide, was the result of Iswahyudi’s failure to maintain a proper lookout and failing to give way to tanker Shun Sheng (IMO 9154294). The accident occurred sea about 1.95nm south-west of Pulau Pawai, a Singapore island off the southwestern coast of the mainland. There were three vessels involved: The Shun Sheng (a 114m-long Hong Kong-registered chemical tanker carrying nitric acid to Lumut, Malaysia); Iswahyudi’s tugboat (a 20.5m-long Sierra Leone-registered vessel named KOI 3); and the KOI 5, (a cargo barge that was being towed by Koi 3 while loaded with 5,000 metric tonnes of sand). Iswahyudi was one of six crew members on the Koi 3, which was on route from Johor, Malaysia to the Tuas Aggregate Terminal in Singapore.

He was both the chief officer of the tugboat and the officer of the watch at the time of  the accident.

Early on February 7th 2019 Iswahyudi took over as the officer of the watch. The tugboat made several course alterations under his guidance. At about 04:40, the Shun Sheng entered a lane, creating a crossing situation where it would face a risk of colliding with the KOI 5 if both vessels did not alter course.

Under the regulations, the KOI 3 was the vessel that had to give way to the Shun Sheng, said the deputy public prosecutors.

Despite receiving communications advising him to move the KOI 3 near an anchorage and wait, Iswahyudi did not. Instead, he altered the KOI 3’s course so that the tugboat and its barge KOI 5 remained in the path of the Shun Sheng.

At 04:52, the Shun Sheng noticed KOI 3, but not its barge and turned in an attempt to avoid colliding with KOI 3.

An officer from the Vessel Traffic Information System operated by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore warned the Shun Sheng that there was a tug and barge ahead of it, but the Shun Sheng mistakenly thought that it had avoided the collision. The Shun Sheng collided with the KOI 5 at 04:54. The impact violently jerked the towline linking the barge and the KOI 3 with six Indonesian members on it, capsizing the latter and damaging all the sand on the barge. The two victims drowned, while the four other crew members, including Iswahyudi, swam to the surface and were rescued by a Police Coast Guard patrol boat half an hour later. Both the tugboat and its barge it towed suffered serious damage and could not be salvaged. They were later determined to be no longer seaworthy. The Shun Sheng sustained some damage to her bow.

After the incident, Iswahyudi admitted that he had learnt the relevant navigational rules for his tugboat’s passage during training, but since then had forgotten some of it. There were two parts to his negligence that resulted in the drownings of the two victims, said the prosecution. First, Iswahyudi merely kept a look-out for vessels through plain sight, and did not use the radar on the Koi 3 to check for nearby vessels as the regulations required. Second, he did not give way to the Shun Sheng, which had right of way.

1999-built, Sierra Leone-flagged, 10,584 gt Shun Sheng is currently owned and managed by Earn Rich HK Trading Ltd of Hong Kong. ISM manager is Momentum Worldwide Co of Kaohsiung City of Taiwan