This report of a collision between a 94483 gross tonne container vessel and a link span highlights a number of Human Element issues – not least the need for increased training in the operation, maintenance and fault finding of technically complex, and multi-discipline systems.
The ship was entering the swinging ground, prior to berthing, when her main engine failed. The engine was unable to be started astern to reduce the vessel’s headway, resulting in her making heavy contact with the link span. The ship had been delivered from the builders a few months before the accident.
An engine failure had occurred as the ship approached the pilot boarding ground some four hours previously. Although the engineers managed to re-start the engine, they misdiagnosed the cause of this failure and inadvertently disabled an integral part of the control system, which led to the second failure, the cause of which was also misdiagnosed by the engineers.
The report concludes that although the engineers on board were experienced and held appropriate STCW certificates, they were unable to correctly diagnose the reason for the engine faults. They did not have a sufficiently good knowledge of the main engine control system or specific system engineering training to successfully diagnose faults. The chief engineer was not the designated chief engineer for the ship but was transferred at short notice. He had not received any specific training in the operation of the Electronic Control System (ECS) components of the engine, apart from what could be conveyed during a 3-day handover with the former chief engineer. None of the ship’s technical staff had received any formal training in the operation, testing, maintenance or fault finding of the complex ECS. They were also not aware of a 24-hour telephone hotline to the engine manufacturer, to give additional technical support.
The report observes that the generic training undertaken by marine engineers during courses leading to professional qualifications, may be insufficient on its own to equip engineers to operate, maintain and successfully diagnose and repair faults on fully integrated, complex engine systems. It recommends that ship owners ensure that, where appropriate, their Safety Management Systems include the need for additional measures, such as effective type-specific training for engineers, and a longer period of supervision by guarantee engineers.
It recommends a review of the training requirements for marine engineers within STCW – to take account of continuing developments in propulsion technology, particularly where main propulsion systems employ integrated combinations of mechanical, electrical, electronic and hydraulic systems essential to the proper and continued functioning of the overall system.
The report also raises questions about the proliferation and identification of alarms; the need for joint simulator training for pilots and tug masters, and for tug masters to make ship visits in company with pilots; and the difficulties of effectively testing the main propulsion systems of large, powerful vessels when alongside, prior to departure, due to the potential for mooring rope failure.