A bulk carrier coming into port was low on bunkers, and because of payment problems, the Master opted to remain at anchor overnight rather than go into port. The vessel anchored with seven shackles of a chain in 17 metres of water one nautical mile off the coast. The weather forecast predicted southerly winds up to Force 8.
The Master’s night orders specified that in wind speeds in excess of 31kts, the main engine should be in immediate readiness. The Master also discussed the risk of the vessel dragging anchor with the bridge watchkeepers, and before going to bed emphasised his instructions regarding engine readiness.
At 2100, in view of the increasing wind speed, the OOW ordered the duty engineer to ensure that the main engine was in immediate readiness. By 0400 the following morning, the southerly wind was gusting over 52kts, the sea swell was between 4 metres and 5 metres, and the vessel had begun to yaw. Twenty-five minutes later, the vessel started to drag its anchor towards the lee shore at a speed of about 1.4kts. The Master was called to the bridge.
The anchor was brought in with difficulty. About 35 minutes after the initial dragging it was aweigh. The vessel started to fall beam to the wind and the Master’s attempts to keep the bow into the wind and check the leeway by intermittent use of the engine were unsuccessful. When the anchor came into view an abandoned chain was seen snagged across its flukes. Once advised that the anchor was fouled by another chain, the Master stopped manoeuvring. An attempt to clear the chain by dropping the anchor and heaving it in again was unsuccessful.
By 0510, the vessel was approximately six cables off the coast on a heading of 274° and making over 2kts leeway to the north. Running out of sea room, the Master applied full port rudder and put the engine to ‘full ahead’ to try to turn the vessel into the wind. Five minutes later, the Master assessed that the vessel would not clear the point, which was only 0.5nm to the west, and stopped the engine. With the vessel within two cables of the shallows, the Master ordered the port anchor let go. The vessel grounded on the coast at 0525.
- Anchoring on a lee shore with expected high winds should be avoided;
- The Master’s decision process had possibly been influenced by the fact that the vessel was low on bunkers, another situation to be avoided;
- In situations such as these, fast and decisive action is needed. Better to lose an anchor than a ship.