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Collision BRITISH TRENT

 

Collision BRITISH TRENT
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- Official Report No. 7027.



An Inspector from the British Marine Accident Investigation Department (MAIB) was appointed by the Government of Bermuda to investigate the collision between the BRITISH TRENT and the WESTERN WINNER in the vicinity of the SW AKKAERT buoy on the 3rd of June 1993. The following extracts are taken from the report produced by the MAIB on behalf of the Bermudan Government.

The full report can be obtained from HMSO Publications Centre PO BOX 276 London SW8 5DT Tel General enquiries 0171 873 0011 Tel orders 0171 873 8200 Fax orders 0171 873 8200.

The scope of this investigation was limited by the fact that the Inspector was not granted full access to some witnesses. The Inspector had no powers to require such co-operation and assistance. All relevant crew members of the BRITISH TRENT who survived were interviewed by the Inspector. All ship's personnel and BP Shipping co-operated fully during the investigation. The Inspector visited WESTERN WINNER at Vlissingen Container Terminal accompanying the Panamanian appointed investigator. The Inspector was prevented by solicitors representing the owners from both interviewing the Master and Officers and from collecting any information about the vessel, apart from photographing the damage. Factual information in respect of the WESTERN WINNER was obtained from the Belgian and Panamanian investigators. The circumstances of the collision were recorded by VTS whose radars track and record all vessel movements in this area. Recordings were also made of the VTS VHF transmissions and receptions. This information was made available to the Inspector. Factual answers to written questions were received from the Belgian Pilotage authority. The Inspector was not allowed to interview the Pilot, Master of the pilot vessel or those involved in the rescue of BRITISH TRENT's crew, but copies of statements and transcripts of pilots' VHF transmissions were made available.
Summary

At 0535 (UTC + 2) the outward bound Bermuda registered tanker BRITISH TRENT, 25,174 dwt, loaded with a full cargo of gasoline, disembarked her pilot. At the same time the Panama registered bulk carrier WESTERN WINNER, 30,396 dwt, part loaded with copper dross was approaching the Wandelaar Pilot Station inbound from London.
The weather at the time was a north westerly wind force 3 with visibility reduced by fog to between 50 and 200 metres. WESTERN WINNER was proceeding at a speed of 11.5 knots. BRITISH TRENT's speed increased after disembarking the pilot until it was 4 knots at 0542.

Both vessels were in the vicinity of the SW Akkaert Buoy which marks the south west end of Akkaert bank. BRITISH TRENT was deemed to be of such a draught that she was not able to cross the bank and had to pass to the south of the buoy in order to proceed to the westbound traffic lane. WESTERN WINNER was proceeding along the eastbound traffic lane and also had to pass south of the buoy.

At 0543 the vessels were in collision in a position 1.22 miles east of the SW Akkaert buoy. Both vessels' hulls were opened up at their port fore-ends and the cargo which spilled from the BRITISH TRENT immediately caught fire. The result of the fire was that the BRITISH TRENT had to be abandoned. Seven of the crew were taken off by pilot launches and the remainder of the crew expected to leave the vessel using the starboard lifeboat. This was frustrated when that side of the vessel became enveloped in smoke and flames forcing the crew to jump into the sea amongst the patches of burning cargo. Twenty crew were rescued from the sea by the pilot launches but nine died as a result of smoke inhalation. The fire on the BRITISH TRENT was extinguished after she had lost about 3,600 tonnes of cargo, though there was no oil pollution. The remainder of the cargo was salvaged but the vessel was declared a constructive total loss and scrapped. The crew of the WESTERN WINNER suffered no fatalities or injuries.

The immediate cause of the collision was the failure of both vessels to comply with the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea in conditions of restricted visibility. Also the Master of the WESTERN WINNER was unfamiliar with the area. A number of recommendations are made which, if implemented, should help to prevent recurrence of such an accident in the future.

Findings

  • The cause of the accident was the failure to comply with the IRPCS in conditions of restricted visibility.
  • WESTERN WINNER is considered not to have proceeded at a safe speed, not to have kept an effective lookout and not to have made proper use of radar given the conditions of visibility that existed. BRITISH TRENT was not detected and risk of collision was not ascertained in sufficient time for WESTERN WINNER to take appropriate avoiding action.
  • BRITISH TRENT did not make proper use of her radar and assumptions were made about the actions of approaching vessels. The risk of collision with the WESTERN WINNER was not ascertained until the vessels were so close that any action taken would not have avoided a close quarters situation. It was assumed that inbound vessels would keep clear of a vessel disembarking her pilot. By the time it was realised that this assumption was wrong it was too late to avoid the collision
  • The Master of the WESTERN WINNER was unfamiliar with the area and appeared not to have prepared a passage plan. He was thus unaware of the pilot vessel's cruising ground; this may have affected his decision as to when to put the vessel's engines on stand-by. This decision did not take into account the restricted visibility. He did not participate in the VTS system which meant that his vessel was not identified by the Traffic Service radar.
  • Vessel Traffic Service - Scheldt Mondigen did not monitor the traffic situation and did not give information about the developing dangerous situation when an unidentified, relatively fast-moving vessel entered a manoeuvring area in restricted visibility.
  • The Traffic Separation Scheme in the approaches to the SW Akkaert buoys puts eastbound vessels in direct conflict with westbound vessels which are unable to cross the Akkaert Bank.
  • Judgement of both Masters may have been impaired because of fatigue and stress.
  • On BRITISH TRENT the collision ruptured number 3 and 4 port cargo tanks and the volatile cargo which spilled out caught fire. It was this fire that led to the dense smoke which caused all the personnel to leave the engine room, the eventual evacuation of the bridge and finally abandonment of the vessel.
  • After the collision BRITISH TRENT's crew went to their emergency stations and performed their duties in an orderly and creditable manner. On the bridge the Master quite correctly manoeuvred the vessel so as to keep the wind on the starboard side
  • On BRITISH TRENT no fire fighting or water cooling was possible because the main fire pumps had not been started and the fire main had been damaged in the collision. The ability to start the fire pumps from the bridge would have saved time and reduced the risk to the crew members who showed courage and determination in attempting to get them started. The damage to the fire main might also have been noticed if it had been possible to start the fire pumps from the bridge, and if the Master had known this he may have decided to abandon ship at an earlier stage.
  • Seven members of the BRITISH TRENT's crew were transferred to a pilot launch after the pilot ladder was rigged on the starboard after end of the main deck. No other members of the crew were evacuated by this means because it was expected that the vessel's own lifeboat would be used.
  • After the bridge was abandoned and before the lifeboat could be used, BRITISH TRENT started to turn which caused the wind to blow the flames and smoke over the starboard side. The lifeboat launching position became untenable due to the heat and smoke and, because the lifeboat was an open type without fire protection and could not be lowered from the boat itself, the crew were forced to jump into the sea where nine of them perished as a result of smoke inhalation.
  • BRITISH TRENT's lifesaving appliances met all SOLAS requirements for a vessel of her age.
  • The launches from the pilot vessel LB1 successfully rescued 20 of the crew in difficult and dangerous circumstances.


Recommendations

The Bermuda Registry of Shipping should:

  • request the Belgian and Netherlands Authorities to liaise with the International Maritime Organisation and other interested parties to investigate and implement improvements in the Traffic Separation Scheme and provision of pilotage to render safe passage in the area of the Scheldt estuary
  • liaise with the Belgian and Netherlands Authorities responsible for the operation of the Vessel Traffic Service, in order to make it more effective in traffic control
  • request the International Maritime Organisation to review the requirements of SOLAS for the provision of lifeboats onboard tankers built before 1 July 1986, with the intention of improving the arrangements for the protection and escape of the crew
  • consult with interested parties within the IMO and the shipping industry to identify practicable improvements which can be incorporated into new and existing tankers to deal with emergencies such as that which befell BRITISH TRENT
  • request the IMO to consider adequate rest of seafarers as a safety matter.