During sea passage in the Mediterranean Sea an A & B flagged general cargo vessel collided with another cargo vessel, causing it to sink in minutes and tragically the death of 10 crew. The A & B flagged vessel suffered only minor damages to its bow and no one was injured on board.
The collision took place in the early morning hours, in darkness but good visibility and calm seas. On taking over the watch the later sunk vessel was part of the watch handover, about 17 nm ahead on a nearly reciprocal course, clearly showing on the radar.
The OOW on the A&B vessel’s bridge took the approaching vessel as an ARPAR target and when it came in sight, judged by the navigation lights he saw and the CPA shown by the radar that all would go clear with a green to green passing.
At a distance of around 3.5 nm to the approaching vessel the OOW on the A&B vessel, still thinking all will go clear with 0.8 nm as CPA after altering course by a couple of degrees to port, left the console to check the position and enter information into the log book. On return to the cons the OOW immediately saw something was wrong as he could now see the red port light of the approaching vessel which meant a collision was imminent. Jumping to the rudder and switching steering to manual mode, the OOW set hard to starboard but tragically this was too late and both vessels collided heavily. After the heavy impact all crew were alerted and involved in the rescue of the sinking ship’s crew. Crew members were saved by the A&B vessels crew over the bow by pulling them out of the big gash in the other vessels hull and accommodation. Sadly the foundering of the other vessel went so fast that not all crew could be rescued, as most of them must have been asleep in their cabins.
It could never be assessed why the foundered vessel suddenly took a hard right turn as all was apparently clear. The manoeuver was much too late and a collision could under these circumstances not be avoided.
Findings and Recommendation
This tragic incident could have been avoided by a clear course change by the A&B vessel to starboard well before, to pass red to red, thus giving room for a safe passing in the open sea. Further a lookout as required in darkness could have warned the OOW immediately when the other vessel started turning, maybe increasing the chance of a successful last moment manoeuver. It is also recommended to increase the awareness of watch keeping bridge personnel by more training in the line of bridge resource management and safe, proactive and good seamanship like behaviour. Another factor that possibly contributed to the very serious casualty was the overreliance on electronic helpers, giving a false sense of safety when it would have been necessary to stay at the cons until the situation had passed.