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Almost three years ago the bulk carrier Alam Seri found itself in trouble as it attempted to enter the Bluff Harbour, which resulted in damage to two tug boats as well as the ship itself.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission worked to find lessons from the incident and made public its findings today.
As detailed in its report, the ship was entering Bluff during a strong east-south-easterly wind under the conduct of a harbour pilot.
Near the end of Number 1 Reach the vessel had to make a turn to port into Number 2 Reach.
"To achieve this the pilot ordered a succession of helm orders, and at about the same time ordered the engine speed to be reduced from half ahead to slow ahead."
However, the vessel began to veer off course, despite the helmsman applying full port rudder.
The pilot ordered the engine speed to be increased to provide better steering control, and called for early assistance from two harbour tugs that were routinely waiting ahead to assist.
Concerned about the decreasing available safe water, the pilot then ordered the engine to be set to full astern and asked the crew to deploy both anchors. The crew were not able to deploy either anchor in time to provide assistance.
The ship was brought under control but not before making contact with the seabed; Both tugs were damaged during the event, and the Alam Seri’s underwater hull suffered paint abrasion, and above the waterline the hull was damaged as a result of contact with one of the tugs.
The report found the wind played a part in the incident, and the delayed deployment of the anchors likely resulted in the vessel not stopping as soon as it could have.
It was, however, uncertain whether the anchors would have prevented the ship from contacting the seabed if they were deployed when ordered.
Another factor was the bridge team not having a shared understanding of the manoeuvring capabilities of the vessel in the weather conditions at the time, or of how the planned turn from Number 1 to Number 2 Reach would be achieved in the east-south-east conditions.
"The absence of electronic charting and information aids on the Alam Seri likely reduced the bridge team’s situational awareness, particularly during the manoeuvres to regain the channel following the incident."
Lessons learned included that manoeuvring actions and outcomes should be discussed during the master-pilot exchange and the bridge team should agree on defined parameters for monitoring and initiating a challenge.
"When safety-critical equipment, such as an anchor, is required to be available for immediate use in the event of an emergency, any factors affecting its immediate use should be communicated and discussed during the master-pilot exchange."
The commission recommended that South Port ensure its pilots meet the requirements for training and proficiency requirements in accordance with the South Port Pilot and Tugmaster Training Manual and as required by Maritime Rules.
South Port accepted the commission's recommendation.