Information related to the fault and maintenance history of vessels must be better transferred to the new manager when ownership changes

Published 1.4.2020

The Safety Investigation Authority has completed its investigation of the grounding of M/S Skarven (FIN) to the west of Degerby on 12 April 2019.

The passenger-car ferry M/S Skarven, operating the route between Degerby in Föglö, located within the area of the Province of Åland, and Svinö in Lumparland, lost its manoeuvrability in the Ekholmssund narrows early in the morning on Friday, 12 April 2019. The vessel drifted from the fairway, collided with the radar mark of the fairway and then drifted aground.

No personal injuries were caused by this accident. A minor amount of rust preventive oil was discharged into the sea from the vessel, and the bottom of the vessel was ruptured at a length of around 9.5 metres and width of one metre.

The rescue operations after the accident were managed well.

The accident was a result of many factors. Deficiencies in the electrical installation work of the vessel’s control system had caused disruptions in the vessel’s control system for a longer period of time. The alarms could not be identified, so determining the reason for the alarms was difficult - particularly as they did not appear to affect the operation of the vessel. There were deficiencies in the bridge ergonomics that made it more difficult to monitor the operation of the control system and to identify the disruptions. For example, the bridge did not have an audible alarm of control system malfunctions. These deficiencies had not been detected during the surveys made on the vessel.

The vessel manager changed in 2013. At this point, no separate agreement had been made concerning the transfer of the maintenance history and fault information, so the information on the changes to the alarm delays and the underlying hidden defects did not reach the new manager.

All in all, the vessel had been built in accordance with the rules of a classification society. The surveys during the building stage did not reveal the quality problems in the vessel’s electrical installations, and the risks related to the propulsion system’s monitoring equipment were not identified.

As a result of the grounding, the Safety Investigation Authority issues four recommendations for improving the safety of vessels.

The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Government of the Province of Åland, as the instance responsible for the commuter ferry traffic in the province and the owner of the commuter ferries, create procedures for ensuring the transfer of fault, change and maintenance history information affecting the safe operation of vessels when their crew or ship manager changes.

Secondly, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency take action to develop regulations ensuring the transfer of fault, change and maintenance history information affecting the safe use of vessels when the vessel’s ownership or ship manager changes.

The change of M/S Skarven’s ship manager was agreed on a separate agreement, but the agreement did not discuss the handover of information related to the vessel’s technical problems or maintenance history. The vessel’s previous technical problems and the related measures were therefore hidden from the new responsible parties, and the effect of hidden defects on the safe operation of the vessel was not sufficiently recognised.

There are also simply no binding regulations on the disclosure of technical information related to the maintenance history of vessels, although this can be separately agreed on. The regulations should absolutely be developed so that the information related to technical problems and maintenance history is transferred to the new ship manager when the ownership changes, emphasises Professor Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Executive Director of the Safety Investigation Authority.

Thirdly, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that Lloyd’s Register ensure that the monitoring system of a vessel is implemented in such a manner that the watch personnel receive immediate and clearly identified information on malfunctions in critical systems.

The equipment of the vessel’s propulsion system involved risks that were not identified. The alarms were difficult to identify, because alarms had been combined into group alarms, and the control system alarms were not found to affect the operation of the vessel. The system defects remained hidden. When a vessel is moving in the narrow and rocky fairways of the Finnish coast, a malfunction and the action it requires must be identified immediately. Critical alarms must also always be given audibly, emphasises Mr. Risto Haimila, Investigator-in-charge.

Fourthly, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency provide instructions for the assessment of the functionality of the bridge ergonomics of vessels and the usability of the equipment during vessel surveys.

The vessel’s bridge ergonomics did not support the current crewing of the vessel as, for example, the display of the control system reporting alarms was located behind the back of the helmsman. Inspections carried out on vessels by the authorities should give attention to the effects of possible crewing changes on the monitoring and use of the vessel’s critical systems. The vessel’s owner or ship manager should also take these into consideration when planning changes, states Investigator-in-charge Haimila.

Link to summary

Further information:

Mr. Risto Haimila, Investigator-in-charge tel. +358 2951 50730

Dr. Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Director, professor tel. +358 2951 50701