A fully laden 363m container ship was arriving in port. When the pilot arrived on the bridge he requested full ahead. The master pilot exchange was brief and there was no agreed plan for the inbound passage. The berthing manoeuvre involved turning into a basin and then swinging the vessel off the berth, but this was not discussed by the pilot; additionally, the vessel’s crew did not have a berth to berth passage plan.
Helm orders were given to begin the turn into the basin, but the vessel did not respond as the pilot expected. Subsequently, the pilot made a series of engine and helm orders in an attempt to avoid making contact with another large container ship that was berthed nearby. However, the inbound container vessel was not under full control and made heavy contact with the quay at a speed of over 5kts.
The contact caused significant damage to the container vessel and the shore infrastructure, including two cranes collapsing. Ten port staff were injured.
1. The entire bridge team needs to have a thorough understanding of the plan before any act of pilotage commences. The plan that is discussed and agreed between the pilot and the bridge team as part of the master pilot exchange should include critical information such as the manoeuvre, desired speeds, use of tugs, anticipated environmental conditions and traffic. Once agreed, this ‘shared mental model’ among the bridge team will result in effective monitoring of the plan.
2. Commercial pressures do not apply only to vessels’ crews. In this case, the pilotage times were recorded as part of the port authority’s continuing drive for efficiency. This prompted the pilot to make haste, and meant that the approach was too fast, resulting in the contact. Time pressures imposed in the quest for efficiency can have a negative effect on safety management.
3. The tugs had not been positioned to assist effectively and were not able to slow the container ship down or assist with the turn into the basin. The correct positioning of tugs is vital in the manoeuvring of very large ships, and their intended use should be discussed and agreed between the pilot and the master in good time.