Shortly after port departure, a 130 m long container vessel under time charter and a tight round trip schedule with a gross tonnage of around 7000 t capsized and foundered due to stability issues.
It was fair day with only little wind and marginal swell. The vessel was delayed without any apparent reason and the pilot, who had already been ordered, had to wait. The pilot later stated that during his waiting for the conclusion of cargo operations, he had observed a list of about 15° to port and starboard side. Due to the imminent list, parts of the crew fled ashore, only returning when the vessel had seemingly regained stability.
After cargo operations had been completed, the pilot was informed that the vessel was ready to sail. During departure, a turn to port under pilot guidance caused the vessel to come to rest with a starboard list prompting the master and the chief officer to check the stability instruments. As the vessel came back to an upright position, a course and speed were agreed with the pilot for his departure. On leaving the vessel, the pilot realised an increasing list to starboard – nevertheless, he left the vessel. During the transfer back to port, the pilot glanced back at the vessel which showed no unusual list.
Ten minutes after the pilot’s departure, a distress call was received by the outbound vessel which shortly afterwards capsized and in consequence came to rest on its side on the seabed.
No apparent reason for the vessel’s delay could be found. Suggestive evidence was found pointing towards a technical deficiency with a double bottom tank valve and its repair. The master and his chief mate must have been aware of the unseaworthy state of the vessel and it would have been their foremost duty to resolve this before sailing. The probable reason for the careless departure could have been external pressure on the master (time schedule, cargo stowage, etc.).
It is recommended that the section of the company’s SMS concerning the master’s responsibility and authority as stated in the ISM Code (Part A, Chap. 5) has also to be applicable if commercial pressure raises severe conflicts of interest.