How fatigue and incompetence led to oil spill at Tamil Nadu’s Ennore coast

Report censures masters of Dawn Kanchipuram and BW Maple, says officials failed to follow protocols, lost situational awareness

Published: 08th November 2017 07:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th November 2017 10:53 AM   |  A+A-

The collision between Dawn Kanchipuram and BW Maple resulted in an ecological disaster | D SAMPATHKUMAR

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Nearly 11 months after two ships collided off the Ennore coast, some chilling facts have come to the fore as investigators concluded that it was a human error, fatigue of the pilots and incompetency of bridge teams of both ships that resulted in the accident.

An investigation team headed by Capt Ranjit Muduli, Deputy Nautical Adviser of Directorate- General of Shipping, Mumbai, in its 33-page report, a copy of which has been accessed by Express, has found several inadequacies and deviation in the application of international regulations for preventing collisions at sea, 1972 (COLREGs).

Effective look out was not maintained by bridge teams; trainees were assigned on look out duty; identification and tracking of the other vessel on radar was also inadequate. Dawn Kanchipuram even on observing of a ‘close-quarters situation’ developing with BW Maple and having doubts about her course, did not raise the signal to attract her attention.

Even when it was evident that the pilot was not taking effective action despite the risk of collision, master of Dawn Kanchipuram did not use over riding authority as per International Safety Management Code. Also, when collision was imminent, both the vessels did not consider the option of using anchors to avert disaster, the reports says and censored the masters of both ships.

Meanwhile, interactions with BW Maple crew revealed that the bridge team was fatigued. The vessel had a CDI (Chemical Distribution Institute) inspection along with discharging operations the previous day, and their rest hours were near violation. This made them lose situational awareness. “The master decided to proceed with the inspection without considering the importance of rest of his crew members,” the report said.

In view of this, DG Shipping has now proposed to regulate rest hours of the pilots and officials. The Indian Maritime Pilots Regulations, drawn by the National Shipping Board’s committee to addresses this issue, should be ratified and implemented and all ports need to be under the purview of Navigational Safety in Ports Committee.

251.46 tonnes spilled

The final loss of oil into the sea from vessel Dawn Kanchipuram is estimated to be 251.46 tonnes. DG shipping has blamed the vessel for underestimating the quantum of leak, which delayed the deployment of oil spill response equipment to full capacity by Kamarajar port and Indian Coast Guard.
The staff, initially, reported that only two tonnes of fuel oil had leaked.

“An initial underestimation of the extent of damage and an inadequate monitoring of the tanks’ contents subsequent to the collision, by the Dawn Kanchipuram staff, had caused the damage to Fuel Oil (Centre) Tank going unnoticed.

This was discovered only by investigation team from MMD, Chennai. To prevent further leakage and to determine the exact amount of oil escaped into the sea, the officers of the DG Shipping decided to transfer oil and oily water mixture that was contained in various tanks and trapped in the ship structure, to shore tank. The final loss of oil into the sea is 251.46 tonnes (approx),” the report said.

Volunteers chip in during the oil spill clean-up drive on Ennore shore.
(File | EPS)

Miscommunication

The option of using the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), or at least an urgent alert/call, in order to alert all concerned authorities immediately, who might have assisted the vessel in combating the situation was not exercised by the master of Dawn Kanchipuram.
Also reporting was not carried out as required in Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan.

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