M2018-03 Drifting of container ship MV Priamos (AG) into shallows off Kotka on 12 September 2018

The container ship MV Priamos (AG) had departed from Quay C of the Mussalo Port owned by HaminaKotka Satama Oy on 12 September 2018, assisted by the tugboat Viikari. The tugboat Viikari is a so-called conventional tugboat with more limited manoeuvring characteristics compared to so-called ASD tugboats (Azimuth Stern Drive). The tugboat Viikari assisted M/V Priamos by pushing. MV Priamos was reversing and turning to the fairway on front of the port when its stern hit an ice buoy. The vessel's rudder and propeller were damaged in the collision, causing the vessel to lose its steering capacity, finally drifting to shallows pushed by the wind.

During the accident, a strong, gusty wind was blowing from west-southwest. Wind data from the port area is not available; instead, pilots have to use wind data from the Finnish Meteorological Institute's weather stations in the region. The port had no wind restrictions concerning vessel traffic. The results of a survey carried out during the investigation showed that several ports do not have wind restrictions and do not wish to limit port traffic; instead, they trust the discretion of the masters and pilots.

Due to the high winds, the master of MV Priamos had ordered a tugboat to assist in the departure. He had not specified a type for the tugboat. Those ordering tugboats do not generally pay attention to the characteristics of the tugboat. The port has defined minimum requirements for tugboats for tugboat assistance but does not set mandatory usage or assistance method. The master of the vessel, the pilot and the master of the tugboat agreed that the tugboat will assist the vessel by pushing on its side, if necessary. The pilot carried out the vessel's unmooring steering and communications with the tugboat while the master followed the situation on the bridge. On occasion, pilots perform the unmooring and mooring steering with the master's consent and under the master's supervision.

The pilot controlled the reversing and turning with the vessel's main engine, propeller, rudder and the bow and stern thrusters, as well as the tugboat. He did not have a visual contact with the tugboat. After unmooring, the vessel's reversing speed rose to around three knoths before the collision.

As the turn progressed, the bridge was notified from the stern of the vessel of the shortening distance to a buoy in the direction of the stern. The master and the pilot did not react to these notifications. No anticipatory situational awareness was formed on the bridge during the vessel's unmooring and attempted turn. Communication between the vessel's master, the pilot and the tugboat's master was scant, affected by the lack of a commonly understood language.

The pilot had to take care of too many bridge duties, and no alternate plans of action were made. Additionally, in the middle of unmooring steering and the turn attempt, the pilot received a phone call that disrupted his concentration and other communications. After the vessel collided with the buoy, its steering capacity was lost and it drifted to the shallows, pushed by the wind, before the anchor could be made to take hold.

Finally, MV Priamos was towed to a quay at the Mussalo Port by the tugboat Viikari and the tugboat Castor that had been called in to provide assistance. No one was injured in the accident, and it did not cause any environmental damage.

In the prevailing conditions, the location of ice buoys on the front of Quay C of the Mussalo Port limited the free water available for turning the vessel. There was no backup plan in place for turning the vessel that took the conditions and the characteristics of the tugboat used into consideration. As vessel sizes increase and their relative engine power decrease, risks are introduced when operating in narrow areas.

Simulations of the vessel's turn commissioned using hydrodynamic modelling showed that the collision could have been likely avoided, for example by setting the propeller to push the vessel forwards sufficiently early.

It was found during the investigation that pilot training focuses more on fairway knowledge than on improving vessel steering skills. In practice, pilots occasionally have to assume steering control of the vessel, of which there have been an increasing number of observations. This requires improving the skills of the pilots and additional training in the management of hydrodynamic forces generated during the vessel's departure from and arrival at the quay.

The Safety Investigation Authority recommend that

• Together with the ports, the Finnish Meteorological Institute develop a system for port specific weather data.

• In cooperation with the ports, Finnpilot Pilotage Oy prepare port-specific restrictions applying to pilotage.

• Finnpilot Pilotage Oy develop the pilots' skills in mooring and unmooring steering of vessels, the utilisation of tugboats and fostering communications during bridge duties.

• The Ministry of the Environment instruct a hearing practice in all building and renovation projects concerning port areas.

• The Finnish Transport and Infrastructure Agency develop a regular practice for involving the expertise of pilots in the development of the fairways.

M2018-03 Investigation report (pdf, 3.99 Mt)

Published 10.7.2019