B2/2003M Tugboat Pegasos, capsizing and sinking off Helsinki on 13 November 2003

The tugboat PEGASOS (FIN) sank off Helsinki on 13 November 2003. The PEGASOS had together with the tugboat POSEIDON assisted the Panamanian container vessel MSC HINA to the West Harbour of Helsinki. The PEGASOS Chief Engineer drowned in the accident.

The MSC HINA was the largest container vessel which had by that time entered the Port of Helsinki. The pilot who was on his way to the vessel learnt that the vessel was new to him and that its size was large (LOA 203 metres) for the Port of Helsinki. Together with the Chief Pilot, a decision was made to take along another assisting pilot. The pilot also contacted the shipbroker, from whom he learnt that the bow thruster of the MSC HINA was unoperational. He did not receive any other technical information.

The towage company had then only two tugboats available in Helsinki, i.e. the PEGASOS and the POSEIDON. The pilots would have preferred more powerful tugboats. The weather was normal according to the tugboat masters so they considered the assistance operation to be routine and the equipment sufficient. During the course of the day the tugboat masters and the pilots discussed the operation by phone.

After embarking the MSC HINA, the pilots learnt that the minimum speed of the main engine with the engine order "Dead Slow Ahead" is 9.5 knots. It was possible to manoeuvre the vessel at low speeds (under 5 knots) by stopping the engine at intervals. The pilots practised this manoeuvre 3–4 times at the beginning of the pilotage in a wide passage of the fairway where it was possible for the vessel to yaw. When underway to the rendez-vous southwest of Katajaluoto, the tugboat masters agreed that the POSEIDON would fasten to the fore of the MSC HINA and the PEGASOS would fasten to the stern of the MSC HINA and thus act as a braking tugboat. After making fast the PEGASOS moved to the leeward of the HINA and proceeded along the container vessel.

The pilot asked the PEGASOS to move to the vessel’s aft and to act as a brake. When the speed had decreased to less than three knots, the tugboat started this change-over. At the same time the MSC HINA started to turn to port. The pilot asked the PEGASOS to raise the aft of the vessel in the direction of the wind. In the pilot's opinion it was however a necessity to use the MSC HINA's engine to straighten up the vessel so that she would not drift off the fairway. The pilot gave the engine order “Dead Slow Ahead”, which was confirmed by the MSC HINA master. The MSC HINA increased its speed and the PEGASOS got into a dangerous situation when the assisted vessel pulled the tugboat more to midships astern as the speed increased. The tugboat master was with the help of his manoeuvres able to delay the PEGASOS from turning in a transverse position. When the stern of the tugboat hit the propulsion current of the MSC HINA’s propeller at a speed of somewhat under three knots, the PEGASOS however quickly turned in a transverse position and capsized immediately after that. The PEGASOS master was too late for the emergency releasing of the towing hook due to the surprising and quick nature of the incident. The POSEIDON disengaged from its towing cable immediately after receiving information about the capsizing and set off towards the PEGASOS. When the PEGASOS sank, its crew was washed overboard. The master and the deck hand were able to climb onboard the POSEIDON. The Chief Engineer got separated from the other crew members and sank under water.

When the accident took place, the wind was from west-southwest 10 m/s, the wave height was 0.8 m and the water temperature +5 degrees. The coordinates for the position where the PEGASOS sank were N60° 06.93 E024° 54.34.

Deficiencies in the general planning of the assistance operation and in the communication during the whole operation created the conditions for the arising of the dangerous situation. Important information from the point of view of the assistance operation on e.g. the characteristics of the assisted vessel and the tugboats as well as different points of view on the way to assist got gradually more specific for the various parties before the pilotage and after it had started. However, the new information did not lead to a discussion where the differing views of the various parties on the carrying out of the assistance would have come up and been processed to a common assistance plan. A dangerous situation arose when the communication failed during the operation when the main engine of the assisted vessel was started. The fact that the towing cable was fastened to the tugboat in a normal way contributed to the dangerous situation developing into an accident. The capsizing of the tugboat was eventually caused by its poor stability and the fact that because of the quick nature of events, the master did not have time to release the towing hook before the tugboat capsized.

The PEGASOS was not seaworthy because its inspection was overdue and the stability did not meet the requirements. The operation was based on inadequate information about the possibilities and limitations of the other parties. Inadequate experience in assisting an unknown and large vessel did not lead to sufficient inquiries. There were deficiencies in the usage of life-jackets.

The investigation commission gives safety recommendations to shipping companies, the Finnish State Pilotage Enterprise and the Finnish Maritime Administration on the improvement of the safety of tugboat assistance, to ports on the instructions on the use of tugboats and to the Finnish Maritime Administration on the tugboat stability regulations and inspections. The realization of the changes has for some parts already been started.

The tugboat PEGASOS (FIN) sank off Helsinki on 13 November 2003. The PEGASOS had together with the tugboat POSEIDON assisted the Panamanian container vessel MSC HINA to the West Harbour of Helsinki. The PEGASOS Chief Engineer drowned in the accident.

The MSC HINA was the largest container vessel which had by that time entered the Port of Helsinki. The pilot who was on his way to the vessel learnt that the vessel was new to him and that its size was large (LOA 203 metres) for the Port of Helsinki. Together with the Chief Pilot, a decision was made to take along another assisting pilot. The pilot also contacted the shipbroker, from whom he learnt that the bow thruster of the MSC HINA was unoperational. He did not receive any other technical information.

The towage company had then only two tugboats available in Helsinki, i.e. the PEGASOS and the POSEIDON. The pilots would have preferred more powerful tugboats. The weather was normal according to the tugboat masters so they considered the assistance operation to be routine and the equipment sufficient. During the course of the day the tugboat masters and the pilots discussed the operation by phone.

After embarking the MSC HINA, the pilots learnt that the minimum speed of the main engine with the engine order "Dead Slow Ahead" is 9.5 knots. It was possible to manoeuvre the vessel at low speeds (under 5 knots) by stopping the engine at intervals. The pilots practised this manoeuvre 3–4 times at the beginning of the pilotage in a wide passage of the fairway where it was possible for the vessel to yaw. When underway to the rendez-vous southwest of Katajaluoto, the tugboat masters agreed that the POSEIDON would fasten to the fore of the MSC HINA and the PEGASOS would fasten to the stern of the MSC HINA and thus act as a braking tugboat. After making fast the PEGASOS moved to the leeward of the HINA and proceeded along the container vessel.

The pilot asked the PEGASOS to move to the vessel’s aft and to act as a brake. When the speed had decreased to less than three knots, the tugboat started this change-over. At the same time the MSC HINA started to turn to port. The pilot asked the PEGASOS to raise the aft of the vessel in the direction of the wind. In the pilot's opinion it was however a necessity to use the MSC HINA's engine to straighten up the vessel so that she would not drift off the fairway. The pilot gave the engine order “Dead Slow Ahead”, which was confirmed by the MSC HINA master. The MSC HINA increased its speed and the PEGASOS got into a dangerous situation when the assisted vessel pulled the tugboat more to midships astern as the speed increased. The tugboat master was with the help of his manoeuvres able to delay the PEGASOS from turning in a transverse position. When the stern of the tugboat hit the propulsion current of the MSC HINA’s propeller at a speed of somewhat under three knots, the PEGASOS however quickly turned in a transverse position and capsized immediately after that. The PEGASOS master was too late for the emergency releasing of the towing hook due to the surprising and quick nature of the incident. The POSEIDON disengaged from its towing cable immediately after receiving information about the capsizing and set off towards the PEGASOS. When the PEGASOS sank, its crew was washed overboard. The master and the deck hand were able to climb onboard the POSEIDON. The Chief Engineer got separated from the other crew members and sank under water.

When the accident took place, the wind was from west-southwest 10 m/s, the wave height was 0.8 m and the water temperature +5 degrees. The coordinates for the position where the PEGASOS sank were N60° 06.93 E024° 54.34.

Deficiencies in the general planning of the assistance operation and in the communication during the whole operation created the conditions for the arising of the dangerous situation. Important information from the point of view of the assistance operation on e.g. the characteristics of the assisted vessel and the tugboats as well as different points of view on the way to assist got gradually more specific for the various parties before the pilotage and after it had started. However, the new information did not lead to a discussion where the differing views of the various parties on the carrying out of the assistance would have come up and been processed to a common assistance plan. A dangerous situation arose when the communication failed during the operation when the main engine of the assisted vessel was started. The fact that the towing cable was fastened to the tugboat in a normal way contributed to the dangerous situation developing into an accident. The capsizing of the tugboat was eventually caused by its poor stability and the fact that because of the quick nature of events, the master did not have time to release the towing hook before the tugboat capsized.

The PEGASOS was not seaworthy because its inspection was overdue and the stability did not meet the requirements. The operation was based on inadequate information about the possibilities and limitations of the other parties. Inadequate experience in assisting an unknown and large vessel did not lead to sufficient inquiries. There were deficiencies in the usage of life-jackets.

The investigation commission gives safety recommendations to shipping companies, the Finnish State Pilotage Enterprise and the Finnish Maritime Administration on the improvement of the safety of tugboat assistance, to ports on the instructions on the use of tugboats and to the Finnish Maritime Administration on the tugboat stability regulations and inspections. The realization of the changes has for some parts already been started.

B2/2003M Report (pdf, 4.98 Mt)

 
Published 18.2.2003