Tug grounding report published

The tug was subsequently raised following its sinking (Ugland) The tug was subsequently raised following its sinking (Ugland)

The Accidents Investigation Branch Norway (AIBN) has published its report into the grounding and sinking of a tug off Farsund in 2017.

The 30m FFS Achilles with three crew on board was returning to Farsund after completing an assistance operation in the Fedafjord when it ran aground at Nordre Lamholmflua. Damage to the vessel’s bottom beneath the engine room led to its sinking soon after.

Following the initial grounding the vessel’s owners were notified and the tug FFS Atlas immediately responded and when it arrived on scene rescued the crew who were in the liferaft, two of the three suffering minor injuries. FFS Achilles subsequently sunk with just the mast remaining visible and the vessel was later salvaged in one piece allowing the AIBN to conduct a technical examination.

The investigation included circumstances around why the stranding happened and the subsequent flooding of the vessel including an examination of its internal compartment layout and bilge pumping system.

The report found that according to the navigator, the autopilot suddenly failed to respond when the vessel was around 130m from the reef, corresponding to 31 seconds, most of which was spent making the decision to switch from autopilot to manual control. AIBN found that the navigator’s statement did not tally with the relationship between heading and COG according to the AIS signals.

The single bottom in the long midship compartment between the transverse watertight bulkheads made the vessel vulnerable to the type of damage that can occur as a result of grounding and the maximum theoretical pumping capacity was insufficient to keep the vessel afloat.

Following the vessel’s salvage, no visible damage or nonconformities were found in the mechanical control system from the wheelhouse through the superstructure down to the (cycloidal) propeller units, nor were there any visible damage or nonconformities in the mechanical part of the autopilot system.

The investigation identified one area in which AIBN deemed it necessary to submit a safety recommendation for improving safety at sea. It found that the shipping company had no written procedures for bridge manning and sailing in narrow channels after dark and that a lookout in accordance with applicable regulations would have increased awareness of the vessel’s exact position and thus increase the probability of avoiding the accident.

By Peter Barker

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