C2/2009M M/T CRYSTAL PEARL, ramming of edge mark Lålättan on 26 January 2009
Luxembourg flagged chemical tanker M/T CRYSTAL PEARL departed the port of Kotka for Rotterdam, Netherlands with a cargo of chemicals. She rammed of the edge mark Lålättan on the fairway of Orrengrund.
After departure the Master handed the steering to the Pilot who steered with the autopilot. He navigated with the help of visual observations and verified his remarks with the help of radar. The Pilot was well familiar with the vessel. The fairway layout included shortcuts, which were utilised by pilots on this fairway.
The vessel encountered one inbound vessel at the approximity of Kaunissaari. Besides that, there was no other traffic on the fairway. Shortly after passing Kaunissaari the Master left the bridge and the remaining bridge manning was the Watch Officer (OOW), the Watch Officer trainee and the Pilot. Finnish Chief Engineer stayed on the bridge since the departure. When the Master left the bridge, the Pilot continued chatting with the Chief Engineer.
CRYSTAL PEARL´s all navigation equipments were operational. The Pilot used the 3 cm radar and it was set to six miles scale at the time of the accident. The Pilot steered the vessel during the whole accident trip with the autopilot.
The weather at the time of departure in Haapasaari was: wind from East 5 m/s, temperature around zero degrees centigrades and the visibility 7 km. During the accident trip the visibility was occasionally poor due to the snow showers, but the radar navigation was not impacted. According to the pilot the visibility varied after passing Bisagrund and it was about 0.5 miles as its worst.
CRYSTAL PEARL’s route plan agreed with the official fairway lines. The route the Pilot used and his recollected piloting plan and its steering procedures were not known by the OOW and the plan was not negotiated before starting the piloting. The Pilot did not explain the progress of his planned piloting to the OOW and e.g. the shortcuts were not at all explained. Additionally the intensive conversation between the Pilot and Chief Engineer on other than piloting or steering matters prevented the communication between the OOW and the Pilot. Because the task sharing was not clearly defined it distracted the OOW’s monitoring.
The ramming of the navigation mark caused a crack to the bow of vessel’s port side between two alongside ballast tanks and the vessel got some damages on the gunnel plating above the waterline. The vessel returned to Kotka for damage checks and to unload the cargo. Later, the vessel got the permission to sail in ballast to Klaipeda for docking. The damages were repaired there.
The edge mark got damaged, but remained operational. The FMA estimated that the repairs would take place during the next open water season.
The investigation work included an analysis of both the VTS recording from FMA and the vessel’s own VDR recording. This data helped to reconstruct the accident trip route including the steering events.
In general the utilised piloting method had a poor transparency of operation and thus weakened the common awareness of the situation especially when the communication between the Pilot and the OOW was weak.
The accident investigators have concluded that introducing the piloting route and the piloting method in advance and a comparison with the vessel’s route plan improves the co-operation in bridge operations and improves the formation of the common piloting situation picture. The accident investigators recommend Finnpilot to compose a piloting plan for Kotka–Orrengrund fairway following the navigation chart’s fairway.