Three years after the incident, the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) has published the results of its investigation into the grounding of the Wakashio bulk carrier ran off the coast of Mauritius owing to errors made by the officers on board.
To remind, the bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground off Mauritius early in the evening of 25 July 2020, attracting significant media attention for several weeks following the occurrence, as fuel oil started leaking from the vessel in the environmentally sensitive region and adverse weather conditions impeded proper response.
The incident resulted in an environmental disaster along the Mauritian coast.
As explained, the Wakashio was travelling in ballast when it grounded on a reef off Mauritius’ Pointe d’Esny on July 25th 2020, en route from Singapore to Brazil. The ship eventually broke up and spilled about 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil into the sea some two weeks after the grounding.
It was 18 months before the remnants of the Wakashio were finally removed. The reefs on which it grounded were near a protected UNESCO World Heritage site. The Nagashiki Shipping newcastlemax was operated by Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) with Anglo-Eastern as ISM manager.
The AMP report reveals little that has not already been told. The ship sailed too close to shore in an attempt by the officers on board to pick up mobile phone signal so that crew members could communicate with family and friends back home.
The report states that the Captain ordered the Chief Officer, who was officer on watch, to pass five miles south of Mauritius. The Captain then went to a birthday party for one of the ship’s crew members. However, a misunderstanding over the correct course resulted in the ship sailing closer to shore than intended. The Chief Officer then failed to realize that the ship was heading towards shallow waters. This was possibly because he was distracted by being on his mobile phone. The Captain had returned to the bridge before the grounding, but he also failed to realize that the vessel was off course.
The Panama investigation found the probable cause of the disaster to be the Captain’s failure to recognize the risk of passing close to the island, added to which was the distraction of the Chief Officer caused by his search for a mobile phone signal so that he could talk to members of his family.
As informed, the Captain and Chief Officer were sentenced to prison for their roles in the accident and served 16-month sentences.
Lack of Safety Awareness
- Lack of safe clead distance off Coast
- When the Master decided to pass 5 nautical miles away from the coast, the OOW misidentified that there was insufficient water depth on ship’s planning course, so he did not realize that the ship would be running aground.
- Lack of awareness that it is very risky for large vessel to navigate close to shore a few distance.
Lack of recognition and implementation of Voyage rules
- Lack of recognition and insufficient performance related to ECDIS:
- Lack of recognition on the ship’s electronic charts that it contains insufficient information such as water depth and is not suitable for coastal voyages.
- Large scale nautical charts which are necessary for navigation in the sea area relevant to the voyage were not arranged in accordance with the voyage plan procedure specified by the Ship Management Company.
- When the ship decoded to alter the original course two days before running aground (23th July), verification of risk on the new course was not conducted properly as the voyage plan was not prepared.
- Lack of Vigilance – Failure to conduct proper navigation
- There was no small-scale electronic chart available to confirm the distance and depth of water from the shore
- The OOW failed to visually check the tracking and the distance clearance from the shore with the ECDIS.
- The OOW failed to maintain proper vigilance for safe navigation during watch.
This accident caused no injuries, however caused a great damage to the vessel and environmental impact, leads to classify it as a very serious marine casualty.
There are several conclusion, many of them are:
- All navigation equipment was working properly; there were no reports of equipment’s malfunction.
- The vessel was manned with sufficient personnel for the operations and appropriate navigation for such voyage.
- It was found that a causal factor was fatigue, since the crew was carrying out an oceanic navigation which is very calm, since during the voyage there was no high traffic of ships for several days of navigation before the vessel ran aground.
- Conducting a Pre-Boarding Briefing
- Participate in a pre-boarding briefing for Master and Chief Engineer conducted by the ship management company or the crew manning company to share information and exchange opinions about the accident in order to promote safety awareness.
- Evaluation of Senior Officers
- Before senior officer board on the vessel, check the evaluation of senior officers which is conducted by the Ship Management Company or the Crew Manning Company.
- For senior officers who are planning to board on the company’s ship for the first time, interviews will be conducted to evaluate the personnel and if there is a problem, boarding will be cancelled.
READ THE FULL REPORT HERE