Log ship gets into trouble when its cargo shifts in rough seas, high winds

A log carrier lost about one-quarter of its load and became dangerously unstable in hurricane-like conditions off western Canada.

Several broken cargo stanchions are bent over the starboard side of the timber carrier Dry Beam. The vessel underwent inspection at Ogden Point, British Columbia, after heavy seas damaged the deck equipment, caused the cargo to shift and sent many logs tumbling overboard. (Times Colonist/Darren Stone photo)

The Singapore-flagged Dry Beam was carrying a load of raw Douglas fir timber bound for Asia when it encountered 70-mph winds and 33-foot seas Feb. 2 about 300 nm northwest of Vancouver Island. Coast Guard cutters from the United States and Canada rushed to the struggling vessel after it reported a list of 20°.

The 558-foot bulker had departed Longview, Wash., en route to Japan when the waves began pounding the ship and logs tumbled off the main deck. The ship issued a mayday call at 2252, said Paul Tasker, maritime search and rescue coordinator at the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre at Victoria, British Columbia.

"They lost maybe 25 percent of their logs," Tasker said. "They lost a complete load off the No. 5 hatch and a partial load off the No. 4."

None of Dry Beam's 23 crewmembers were hurt, but the outcome could have been worse. The movement of the topside cargo caused an imbalance that harmed the stability of the ship in the rough seas.

"The problem is the cargo shifted," Tasker said. "They had a list, but they transferred some ballast and were able to correct that."

The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy just happened to be nearby because it was returning to its Seattle home port after a January mission escorting a tanker for an emergency winter delivery to Nome, Alaska. Healy diverted to rendezvous with Dry Beam, arriving on the morning of Feb. 3, said Petty Officer Eric Chandler, a Coast Guard spokesman.

Healy kept watch over Dry Beam as the bulk carrier's officers finished righting the list and turned back toward port. At 0127 on Feb. 4, the Canadian Coast Guard ship John P. Tully arrived and took over the escort, Tasker said. Dry Beam initially was hoping to return to Longview, but instead diverted to Victoria for inspection and repairs, he said.

"They did lose some of the stanchions that the logs were held in. They were all ripped off," Tasker said.

Stanchions on the port side were bent inward and starboard stanchions were bent over the side of the vessel, said Capt. Jostein Hoddevik, president of IMS Marine Surveyors, which inspected the damage on behalf of the P&I club.

"Logs were still dangling off the side of the ship when they entered Victoria," said Hoddevik, who is based in Vancouver. There was also damage to uprights, and safety railings needed to be rebuilt. He said he was not authorized to comment on further details of the cargo configuration or damage to deck equipment.

Dry Beam's operator is Sandigan Ship Services Inc. of the Philippines. The company didn't respond to requests for comment.

Repairs were completed in Victoria, and Dry Beam sailed back to Longview to take on more logs. It resumed the interrupted delivery to Japan in mid-February.

Hoddevik said ships limping into British Columbia with heavy damage from large waves always seem to have run into trouble within a zone about 200 to 300 nm northwest of Vancouver Island. The problem becomes acute there when two or more storms converge from different directions. Because the preferred shipping lanes to Asia pass through this region, the industry should make itself aware of the risks there, he said.

"All the big damages that I've investigated over 20 years have all come from that area," Hoddevik said. "It's an unusual wave pattern there. These are killer waves and they can destroy your ship."

By Professional Mariner Staff