C4/2004M Icebreaker jm VOIMA (FIN), Grounding at Ulkomatala off Helsinki on 11.4.2003

The Finnish Icebreaker VOIMA was assisting outside of Helsinki 11th April 2003. Quite strong easterly and south-easterly wind forced the ice to move northwest and caused problems to the traffic on Porkkala archipelago fairway as well as in the entrances of Helsinki. The traffic off Helsinki began to jam, especially the ships with weak ice strengthening were in difficulties. The duties the icebreaker VOIMA during the night of 11th April increased and the risk of traffic jam did exist.
According to the agreement between the master of VOIMA and the chief of the pilots the ships of weak ice class were not allocated to the fairway of Porkkala because of the moving ice. The ships were ordered out to the sea via Harmaja. Without a prior notice and as a surprise to VOIMA the assistance for the outbound weak ice class vessel ms TANJA was needed. TANJA was not able to follow the trace of VOIMA, but got fastened in the ice two cable lengths east of the Ulkomatala edge mark. VOIMA did not begin the tow of TANJA at this stage.
After TANJA had got fastened in the ice VOIMA continued her way towards the ships laying in the ice a few miles southwest. Helsinki VTS warned VOIMA about TANJA’s close position to the Ulkomatala shallow and later about her drift towards it. After having interrupted the assistance of the vessels further, VOIMA returned to assist TANJA. During these assisting attempts TANJA had drifted north-west among the drifting ice closer to Ulkomatala. When taking TANJA into tow, which took longer than anticipated, the icebreaker grounded 11th April 2003 at 04:50 o’clock. No leaks were observed.
The contributing factors to the accident were found to be the vague and jammed traffic situation, the poor co-operation of the bridge team caused by large amount of radio traffic and the lack of guidelines for the co-operation between the organisations supporting the icebreaker assistance. Other safety observations concern the possible fatigue, the organisational changes in the Finnish Maritime Administration and the effect of the exemptions from traffic limitations.
The safety recommendations issued by the investigation team deal with the guidelines for co-operation within the administration concerning winter navigation and icebreaker operation and the training of the bridge teams in the equipment familiarisation.

C4/2003M Report (pdf, 0.62 Mt)

Published 18.2.2003