Collision Between Tanker and Containership – Investigation Report

This incident investigation report refers to the collision between the tanker the British Cygnet and the Containership Vera. On the morning of the 2nd of December the oil tanker British Cygnet was proceeding in ballast on passage from Rotterdam to Fredericia in Denmark to load crude oil. The containership Vera on the morning of the 2nd of December the was on passage from Arhus to Bremerhaven engaged on a container feeder service. At 1130 UTC both vessels entered the buoyed channel north of Fynshoved. The British Cygnet was southbound and the Vera northbound. At 1138 UTC both vessels collided in the channel. Fortunately there were no injuries and no pollution as a result of this incident.

2013.09.03 - Collision Between Tanker and Containership - Investigation Report Figure 1

During the time of the incident the weather was overcast and the visibility was greater than 5 miles. The wind was south westerly Force 5-6 and the sea state was approximately 1 meter with a tidal current of 1 – 1.5 knots setting to the north.

2013.09.03 - Collision Between Tanker and Containership - Investigation Report Figure 2

The Oil Tanker British Cygnet

2013.09.03 - Collision Between Tanker and Containership - Investigation Report Figure 3

The Containership Vera

The events that led to the collision between the two vessels can be summarized as follows:

1100. On board the British Cygnet the Second Officer took over the watch at 1200 ship’s time. The pilot and an AB were also on the bridge at this time. At the same time on board the Vera the Second Officer took over the watch. He noticed the presence of a ship on his port side just forward of the beam at a distance of more than 5 miles, this was the British Cygnet. The Vera was steering a course of 174 degrees to follow a track to the southern end of the buoyed channel north of Fynshoved. Both ARPA radars were running on a 6 mile range, the ship was in automatic steering and all the bridge equipment was operating normally. The Second Officer was alone on the bridge.

1110. On board the British Cygnet the Vera was observed by radar and ECDIS / AIS following a south easterly course. The Vera was observed visually at a range of 6nm.

1115. The Second Officer on the Vera noticed the British Cygnet alter course to a south westerly heading and assumed that she was heading towards the northern end of the buoyed deepwater channel north of Fynshoved.

1127. On board the British Cygnet the Master arrived on the bridge in response to a call from the Officer of the Watch. This was in accordance with the Masters instructions for transiting the Fynshoved channel. The Pilot, Master, Second Officer and one AB seaman were present on the bridge. The Ship was in manual steering with the AB seaman on the wheel and engines ready for immediate manoeuvring.

11.30. Onboard the Vera the Second Officer reduced the speed to half ahead giving a ship speed over the ground of approximately 9 knots before commencing a course alteration to 097 degrees to enter the channel. The second officer engaged manual steering and kept the ship’s speed at half ahead. He chose not to call for a helmsman as based on his previous experience of carrying out large course alterations he was confident he could handle the situation on his own.

11.33.26. The British Cygnet entered the northeast end of the deep water channel north of Fynshoved on a course over the ground of 250.8 degrees and a speed over the ground of 15.1 knots.

11.34.45. The Vera entered the south western end of the deepwater channel north of Fynshoved on a course over the ground of 101 degrees and a speed over the ground of 11.5 knots. The Second Officer was alone on the bridge. The ship was in manual steering. The Second Officer intended to enter the channel and remain on the starboard side. However the rate of turn was not sufficient to keep the Vera within the channel and she entered the channel between the two buoys at the south western end, then passed out of the channel across its southern boundary.

11.35.35. The Vera passed out of the deep water channel over the southern boundary. Her course was easterly at 083 degrees and her speed was 12.3 knots.

11.36.14. Onboard the British Cygnet there was a brief conversation between the Master and Pilot about the vessel approaching the south western end of the deep water channel. This concluded with the assumption the vessel would remain outside of the deepwater channel. The Vera’s easterly course was clearly indicated visually, by radar plots and on ECDIS and

11.37. The Vera altered course to port, heading back into the deepwater channel. The British Cygnet was unsure of the Vera’s intentions and in accordance with the ColRegs Rule 34d made the sound signal of 5 short and rapid blasts on the ship’s whistle. She maintained her course of 234 degrees and speed of 14.9 knots. The pilot made a VHF call to determine the Vera’s intentions, however this was not addressed to Vera and no reply was received.

11.37.35. The Vera re-entered the deepwater channel across its southern boundary on a course of 038 degrees and a speed of 8.2 knots. The Vera then passed about 20 metres north of the port hand buoy. She then continued to cross the channel with a course over the ground of 032 degrees and speed of 9.5 knots.

11.37.48. The pilot on the British Cygnet makes a call on the VHF “you have to come to port, come to port please” This is not heard by the Second Officer on the Vera.

11.37.54. The pilot on the British Cygnet gives 5 helm orders in quick succession finishing with Hard a Port.

11.38.19. On board the British Cygnet the Master orders Hard a Starboard. The Pilot also orders Hard a Starboard and then requests a signal and orders Stop Engines.

11.38.39. On board the British Cygnet the Master orders the General Alarm to be sounded.

11.38.49. The Point of Collision between the British Cygnet and Vera. The Vera’s bow struck the British Cygnet amidships on her port side at an angle of approximately 60 degrees leading aft. The collision stopped Vera instantly and she passed along the British Cygnet’s port side as the tanker continued to make way.

11.38.54. Onboard the British Cygnet a public address system announcement was made stating Emergency – Collision and the crew were called to Muster Stations.

11.40. The Pilot on the British Cygnet called Lyngby radio and the Danish Authorities to report the collision on the Masters authority.On board the Vera the Master came to the bridge and ordered safety and damage checks. He contacted the Danish authorities to report the collision and communicated with the British Cygnet by VHF radio.

11.45. The Master of the British Cygnet ordered a damage assessment and called the Vera enquiring if there were any casualties and asking if assistance was required. The British Cygnet then proceeded to a safe anchorage. The Master of the Vera communicated with the British Cygnet to confirm that there were no injuries to crew and damage assessment was underway. The Vera proceeded with minimum speed to anchor.

2013.09.03 - Collision Between Tanker and Containership - Investigation Report Figure 4

The investigation of the accident concluded on the following regarding the causes that led to the collision:

  1. The action of the Vera to re-enter the channel was the primary reason for the collision.
  2. By re-entering the channel, failing to keep to the starboard side and failing to take effective avoiding action in good time Vera contravened COLREGS Rules 8, 9, 15 and 16.
  3. The charted information showed adequate sea room and depth of water for the Vera to have safely passed south of the deepwater channel. Unfortunately the Master of Vera was not on the bridge to supervise the decisions of the OOW.
  4. The Second officer on the Vera failed to utilise the resources available. The helmsman was not called to take the helm and the Master was not called as a close-quarters situation was developing. The bridge team onboard the British Cygnet was well prepared to cope with this situation. The Master in particular must be praised for closely monitoring the pilot’s advice.
  5. The second officer on the Vera did not understand the significance of the sound signal of 5 short and rapid blasts on the ship’s whistle given by the British Cygnet in accordance with Rule 34(d) of the COLREGS. 
  6. The Second Officers action’s caused loss of steerage on board the Vera, this indicates a lack of training and familiarisation with handling the ship.
  7. The pilot onboard the British Cygnet did attempt VHF communication with the Vera to clarify the situation however the calls were not addressed or identified and communication was not established.
  8. There were several opportunities for the crew of the Vera to be tested for alcohol consumption. As the crew of the Vera were not tested it is not known whether alcohol consumption was a contributory factor to the collision.

This incident highlights the importance of good bridge team management including the proper use of resources to effectively maintain a safe navigational watch. In order to avoid similar incidents apart from others the passage planning procedures should always follow IMO’s resolution A.893(21) Guidance for Voyage Planning.

Source: Isle of Man


  1. Govind Rana says:

    It is generally observed that the OOW are not keeping the helsman on watch and keeping the vessel on autopilot even at night . By keeping NO look out or the able seaman to assist the OOW he is left with his own tool to fend the exigenicies like what happened on Vira . I beleive its against the rule to keep OOW all alone in Bridge.

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