Lessons learned: Stay at berth if your windlass has been sidelined due to hydraulic problems

As the Nautical Institute reports, an LNG vessel had completed loading and preparations for departure were underway.

The incident

With the pilot now on board, the forward winch was started prior to singling up. Soon after, the fi re detection system indicated smoke in the bosun store.

The unmooring operation was suspended and the offi cer forward reported seeing smoke coming from the bosun store. The mooring winches were stopped using the remote external shut off button and the smoke decreased. Once it was deemed safe to enter, crew saw that a loose screw had caused lubricating oil to leak, generating smoke when it struck the hot motor.

The ship left the dock without the defi ciency corrected because the necessary spare part was not quickly available – possibly not even on board. In order to prevent the smoke, it was decided not to use the mooring winches forward, so lines were handled manually. This was accomplished fairly well, but it was a big challenge for the crew to manually heave in the tug escort line forward. The vessel’s windlass was also aff ected by the decision to not use the forward mooring hydraulics, so the anchors could only be cast by gravity.

In this case, the reporting person mentioned that he disagreed with the Master about leaving the berth without having the defi ciency corrected, but had to acquiesce as compromise was not possible. He was also critical of the company’s response and confi ded that many senior offi cers were often searching for someone to blame instead of discovering the contributing factors of an incident. Another complicating factor was that the ship was quite new and still under builder’s guarantee, so defi ciencies were supposed to be taken care of by the builder.

Lessons learned

  • If your windlass has been sidelined due to hydraulic problems it may be a good idea to stay at berth until it can be properly repaired.
  • When in doubt about how to proceed when equipment fails, consult your Classifi cation Society.
  • Searching for someone to blame is a red fl ag for a weak safety culture. Accidents and incidents are caused by unsafe conditions. Period. Even complacency, which has been cited as a contributing factor to some accidents, is not in and of itself a true underlying cause. Complacency does not suddenly appear, it grows and multiplies under tacit approval of leadership. Why was this complacency not detected and corrected? The unsafe condition could more correctly be stated as weak safety leadership, less than adequate auditing, or procedural slip to name but three.

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