C11/1997M General Cargo Vessel ms GRIMM, Grounding Outside Port of Kotka on 1.10.1997
The German general cargo vessel ms GRIMM grounded on October 4, 1997, shortly after departure from Halla port in Kotka. The vessel was operated by Jan Nasek KG and her destination was Tallinn.
The Finnish pilot boarded the vessel at 03:00 and the vessel departed immediately. The pilot and ship’s master discussed the turning of the vessel in the harbour. The turn to the first fairway leg or directions to be steered were not discussed. The master turned the vessel after which he asked the pilot to take over. During the turn out of the harbour a mistake in the steering occurred. This mistake took the vessel to the northern side of the fairway. The grounding took place at slow speed at 03:20. One diesel tank took in water after the grounding. No oil spill to the sea was observed.
The master did not explain the control systems of the vessel to the pilot before the departure. There was no mutual agreement on the steering system to be used. Having turned the vessel in the harbour the master selected a steering system for the pilot. This selection was made with a switch at the console in the middle of the bridge. The selected steering system, time steering of the rudder machine (non follow up) was the least suitable of the available systems for one man ship control and piloting. It requires continuous observation of both the rudder angle and the rate of turn indicators. The rudder angle indicator was mounted in the ceiling and the pilot had to look up to see it.
The pilot navigated visually having no time to resort to the use of the radar. The steering decisions immediately after and during the turn to the first fairway leg were based on the visual sightings of three buoys, because no fixed objects were available. When the turn progressed and the buoys were passed the number of useful visual clues for the navigation decreased. Finally only one south buoy was visible and the navigation was based on the position of the buoy relative to the vessel. The heading of the vessel was no longer in control nor was it monitored by the master. Presumably the master did not intervene with the methods used by the pilot during the voyage. The master also mentioned that it had been difficult to observe the motion of the vessel in the darkness. Apparently, the master had no written passage plan. The pilot on the other hand has mentioned that he does not need the chart on this fairway.
The steering mistake which led to the grounding of ms GRIMM developed out of deficiencies in the voyage preparation or departure plan, cooperation on the bridge, selection of the steering system used and the navigation method.