Cargo ship runs into docked vessel after pitch controls not in sync

A general cargo ship collided with a moored bulk carrier while docking at a British Columbia berth as a result of a failure to synchronize central control with the starboard bridge wing controls.

The 454-foot Brattingsborg ran into the stern of the 549-foot Orient Hope on Jan. 4 at the Fraser Surrey Docks. Brattingsborg’s bulbous bow was holed and flooded. Orient Hope had damage to rails on the stern launch lifeboat raft.

As Brattingsborg approached the berth, the captain went to dead slow and set the pitch on the variable pitch propeller at 6° forward pitch, said Bill Dutrizac, senior marine investigator with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB). Speed was 1.6 knots, and a 10- to 15-knot wind was pushing the ship.

“At that point the captain transferred control from the center control to the starboard bridge wing,” Dutrizac said, explaining that the captain then tried to apply reverse pitch in order to dock the vessel. “From that point he, assisted by the pilot, tried to put it alongside but it wouldn’t stop. The ship didn’t respond. The ship kept creeping forward until it hit the Orient Hope.”

A tug came alongside and pulled Brattingsborg to the berth and made it fast, Dutrizac said. The Singapore-flagged vessel was carrying a load of steel plate, plus a luxury yacht on deck.

TSB personnel boarded Brattingsborg Jan. 5, downloaded the voyage data recorder (VDR) and interviewed the captain, engineer and mate.

“We came back to the office and it became clear when we played back the VDR that they didn’t transfer control properly. As a result, the propeller pitch remained at 6° forward and didn’t go astern as they said it did,” Dutrizac said.

TSB staff returned to Brattingsborg to examine the controls and simulate the berthing maneuver.

“We put the pitch control at forward pitch and found that they didn’t synchronize the center console with the starboard bridge wing control,” Dutrizac said. “When they transferred the control it didn’t synchronize properly.”

In addition, TSB investigators found that when the door to the open bridge wing was closed, the ship’s officers could not hear the alarm that indicates that the transfer had not been done properly.

“When they went out onto the bridge wing the alarm went off, but they didn’t hear it,” Dutrizac said.

TSB staff met with the managing director of the ship’s manager, Thome Ship Management, and described what they had determined to be the cause.

Consequently, Thome is writing a more descriptive section into the ship’s Safety Management System manual to improve the procedures for synchronization when transferring controls. The company is also taking action to ensure that the alarm can be heard on the bridge wing.

An added benefit of the investigation is that with five other ships in the fleet identical to Brattingsborg, the safety procedures on all six will be improved. Dutrizac said the presence of the vessel data recorder on board made the determination much easier.

“The good news story is that the voyage data recorder told us exactly what happened,” he said. “It is a very valuable tool.”

The bulbous bow of Brattingsborg was flooded and a section had to be replaced. The ship was inspected by the ship’s underwriters and Transport Canada before it sailed.

Thome Ship Management, based in Singapore, did not respond to a request for comment.

By Professional Mariner Staff