M2012-02 M/S PHOENIX J (ATG) grounding off Rauma on 18 April 2012
The M/S PHOENIX J, sailing under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda, had arrived to Rauma on 17 April 2012. The vessel discharged and loaded containers and departed for Gävle, Sweden, at 12.06 on 18 April. The vessel ran aground at 12.58 and remained on a shoal. There were leakages in the bow. The vessel was refloated from the shoal by a salvage company, and she was towed to port on 22 April. The damages were inspected by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency and the classification society, and they granted the vessel permission to transfer to Germany for repairs after temporary repair measures had been completed and the cargo had been discharged.
On the voyage the Pilot disembarked the vessel before the actual pilot boarding area after agreeing on this with the Master. The disembarkation took place somewhat north of the channel area and in this way the Pilot could transfer to the pilot boat in the lee of the wind. An inbound vessel, M/S HARBOUR FOUNTAIN, which the Pilot was to board next, had proceeded past the pilot boarding area and the Pilot decided to bring forward the transfer more than usual. The Master of the PHOENIX J lost his perception of the vessel’s exact position possibly because of the manoeuvring required by the Pilot's disembarkation, in which the vessel provided lee for the pilot boat by performing a sharp turn to north. Immediately after this the Master changed the vessel's course to 254 degrees towards Gävle, but this was done too early. This heading led the vessel towards a shoal. The Chief Officer had recommended that a course of 270 degrees should be used. At the same time the VTS operator monitored the Pilot boarding the inbound vessel, which had already proceeded far and close to the southern border of the channel, where the channel starts to narrow. Due to this monitoring and the temporary disturbance in his display unit, the VTS operator noticed that the PHOENIX J was proceeding towards a shoal so late that the grounding could not, in spite of a warning, be avoided.
After the accident the Finnish Transport Agency in its role as authority responsible for VTS operations and Finnpilot Pilotage Ltd agreed on on common practices in order to improve cooperation in the Sea of Bothnia pilot boarding area 7 May 2012. These practices render the operations clearer and thus improve the safety of vessel traffic. The objective is to improve the mutual communication and reciprocal situational awareness between the VTS and pilots.
As the result of the investigation, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that Finnpilot Pilotage Ltd and the Finnish Transport Agency in its role as the VTS authority ensure that the procedures noted on 7 May 2012 on improving of cooperation between pilots and the VTS have been adopted in the Sea of Bothnia area and that they will be extended to cover all Finnish pilotage areas. It is recommended that Finnpilot Pilotage Ltd specify its pilotage instruction in such a way that the pilot, if the pilotage ends before the pilot boarding area, understands to indicate clearly to the master the position of the vessel and the route out past the pilot boarding area and makes sure that the master has understood the aforementioned. The Finnish Transport Agency is recommended to create and to implement automatic alarm boundaries in the fairways at places where they are considered to improve safety and also to study possibilities to specify the VTS instructions for ships in such a way that anchored ships must ask VTS for permission before departing.
The Safety Investigation Authority has made a safety observation regarding the PHOENIX J case. In the course of pilotage the master of the vessel may leave the manoeuvring of the vessel entirely to the pilot and does not adequately monitor the passage of the vessel. In addition, he/she has to monitor the disembarkation of the pilot to the pilot boat in which case the vessel may significantly diverge from the channel and its direction. Therefore the exact position of the vessel may not be clear for the master when the pilot disembarks the vessel. The audits of the vessel and shipping company SMS performed by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency and the Maritime Administration of Antigua and Barbuda should ensure that the systems in question require that the master and the officer of the watch check, together with the pilot, the vessel's position and continued route before the pilot leaves the bridge.