Damage and engine room flooding following contact by tugboat

What happened?

A vessel suffered damage to the hull and engine room flooding due to contact with a tugboat during berthing.  One of two tugs lost manoeuvrability and bumped into the vessel hull resulting in damage to engine room hull at frame no.42-45 portside.  The hull was torn 2 metres horizontally and 6 meters vertically leading to engine room flooding.  The flooding was not stabilised by the use of the fire and general service (GS) pump and additionally, no.1 ballast pump for emergency bilge suction was started and then, the flooding was brought under control.

Following the incident, interim and then permanent repairs were made, after which the vessel sailed following classification society and port state control verification of the seaworthiness of the repair.

What went wrong?

Our member noted:

  • Weather conditions were reported as rough weather, strong wind (25 knots) with waves of 3-4 meters;
  • Vessel speed was 11.3 knots at the time of incident:
    • there was no reduction of speed to allow the tug to make fast to the vessel
    • master and deck officers did not realise how fast the vessel was going whilst the tugs were making fast to the vessel;
  • Master/responsible officer failed to provide required stability data as requested by the classification society emergency response services.

What were the causes?

  • Immediate causes:
    • vessel master failed to warn the pilot or discuss with the pilot the need to reduce speed for the tugboat to make fast the tug line to the vessel
    • pilot then made the decision to make fast tug line with vessel maintaining high speed
    • tug master failed to maintain safe distance from vessel for stable manoeuvrability
    • rough weather, high seas and high wind;
  • Causal factors:
    • ineffective information exchange and communication
    • inadequate supervision:
      • misjudgement of vessel movement and external force (wind, wave and swells)
      • master and bridge team not aware/alert of communication between the pilot and tugs
    • competence factors ­ lack of experience of pilot and tug master for safe operation of tug line handling in consideration of rough weather and strong wind;
  • Root causes:
    • complacency – ‘task seen as routine’
    • procedures were not followed.

What actions were taken?

  • Master to execute his overriding authority effectively and in timely manner;
  • The bridge team should understand the pilot is on-board in an advisory capacity only and not in command of the vessel;
  • Master/responsible officer to understand and be familiar with the vessel damage control plan and damage stability calculations.