A small general cargo vessel in ballast was to enter a port to load logs with drafts fore and aft at 3.5m and 4m respectively, with winds from the north at Beaufort force 7. At 10:30, after the pilot boarded there was a short conversation on the berthing manoeuvre and the vessel headed inbound.
The pilot requested the stern line should be secured first to hold the stern. About six minutes later, the Master asked the pilot to repeat the details of the berthing manoeuvre. He also asked if a tug was necessary. The pilot repeated how he intended to back in and pivot and also replied that a tug would take six hours to arrive. At 10:40 the bow thruster was put to full port and three minutes later the main engine to full astern. The vessel soon started to go astern.
As the vessel approached the berth the pilot shouted to send the heaving line. The line was sent and a mooring line set on the berth but the mooring winch could not hold the stern, which was drifting south away from the berth. At 10:54 the pilot ordered to let go and full ahead in an abort manoeuvre. Hard to port helm was also ordered and applied but a grinding noise was heard at about this time. The vessel was manoeuvred out of the port without further incident and anchored. Divers attended later and found a large bundle of rope fender in the propellor, which itself was slightly damaged. As it turned out, the Master had only recently been promoted to Captain. Some of the actions taken and lessons learned by the company:
- Proper training for the ships Masters/crew was scheduled with reference to proper passage planning, bridge resource management and seamanship.
- The procedures of promotion of seafarers, evaluation of seafarers and office visits by seafarers to be reviewed. Feedback/findings (verbal or in writing) from office departments have to be incorporated in these procedures.
Editor’s Comment: By any measure this berthing was attempted on a wing and a prayer. With a strong wind pushing south, away from the berth, no tug assistance, and a flotilla of small boats and buoys just south of the berth, the bridge team appears to have given little forethought to the manoeuvre. Given the conditions, the consequences could have been much worst. An inexperienced Master and an apparently impatient pilot met at the wrong time in the wrong place.