Friday, March 28, 2014

Entire Crew Slept as Ship with Cargo of Timber Ran Ashore

Owners Fortunate there were no Deaths or Serious Environmental Damage
Shipping News Feature

UK – GERMANY – The operator of a cargo ship, which grounded in an environmentally sensitive area off the Northumberland coast on March 15, 2013, has been ordered to pay nearly £73,000 in fines and costs after its crew failed to keep a proper lookout. The 1979 dwt MV Danio left Perth, Scotland, with a cargo of logs, destined for Ghent, Belgium. The Master was on watch until around midnight when he handed over to the Chief Officer, who had contracted an eye infection after handling a previous 'dusty' cargo. Press have reported the responsible oprerators as Cux Ship Management GmbH in Cuxhaven Germany, but the vessel is actually listed as one of the ships owned by Reederei Frank Dahl trading at the same address.

After coming on watch it was said that the Chief Officer's eyes became increasingly irritable, so he sat on a settee, put his head back, and administered some prescription eye drops after which he then fell asleep. He was woken up 90 minutes later by the noise of the ship grounding in the early hours of March 16. Examination of the AIS track showed that the vessel went in a straight line from the Firth of Forth until it ran aground on rocks underneath the Farne Island lighthouse. There was no lookout on watch, so the Chief Officer was alone on the bridge with the rest of the six man crew all also apparently asleep.

The Danio crossed an outer reef before hitting a rocky shelf. It hit head on, but then pivoted about 180 degrees, which resulted in the whole ship becoming stuck on the rocks. The crew did not contact HM Coastguard for an hour after the incident occurred, however, they contacted the vessel's owners within that time. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency brought the prosecution citing an inadequate navigational alarm system in place from the bridge but said, even had it worked properly, it was switched off at the time of the incident.

At a hearing at Newcastle Crown Court, Cuxship Management, of Cuxhaven, Germany, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,796.77, along with a victim surcharge of £120, after pleading guilty to a breach of UK maritime legislation. Judge Brian Forster said:

"It is clear to me the shocking failure to comply with regulations led the vessel to sail on automatically. The potential for disaster was obvious, as it sailed on silently at night, with no lookout, with the threat to other vessels at sea."

The vessel was finally removed on 28 March 2013, the crew having had to remain in situ for a fortnight waiting for suitable weather and tidal conditions to allow it to be re-floated, after which it was towed to Blyth for inspection. Alan Thomson, Surveyor in Charge at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's Tyne Marine Office, said:

"It was very fortunate that the damage to the MV Danio was relatively small and that there were no injuries or deaths. It is also fortunate that the effects on such an environmentally sensitive area as the Farne Islands were minimal. The requirement to keep a good lookout is set out in UK, national and international legislation. All owners and operators are reminded to ensure that their vessels are being operated and manned correctly."

Photo: The Danio in happier circumstances