Grounding of bulk carrier Lowlands Maine

Location: Varne Bank, Dover Straits off the south east coast of England.

Completed PE Summary: Lowlands Maine

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Registered Owner & Manager:   Cobelfret NV
Flag:   Panama
Type:   Tanker/combination carrier
Built:   2005
Classification society:   Nippon Kaiji Kyokan
Construction:   Steel
Length overall:   225m
Gross tonnage:   40039.00
Date & Time   26/04/06 16:05
Location of incident:   Coastal waters
Incident Type:   Grounding
Injuries/ fatalities:   None
Damage/ Pollution:   None


At 1645UTC the bulk carrier Lowlands Maine grounded at a speed of 15.5 knots on the Varne Bank in the Dover Straits; weather conditions were good and the visibility excellent. The Chief Officer was the 1600-2000 watch officer, and a bridge lookout was posted. During the build up to, and at the actual time of the grounding, the Master was at the rear of the bridge communicating with the vessel’s owners.

While proceeding down the south-west traffic lane, and intending to pass south of the Varne Bank the Chief Officer became aware that the vessel was south of the planned track. He altered course 15 degrees to starboard and predicted that the vessel would regain track in the vicinity of the Varne light float. At 1715, before the vessel regained track, the Third Officer relieved the Chief Officer to allow him to leave the bridge and take a meal.

The Third Officer fixed the vessel’s position at 1725, which showed that the ship had regained the planned track coincident with a planned 5 degree alteration to port. However, he did not alter the vessel’s heading either back to the original course, or to the new one.

Although the Third Officer was aware of, and expecting to pass between, two cardinal buoys (Colbart North and the East Varne), he did not positively identify them. The vessel actually passed between the two cardinal marks positioned north west and south east of the Varne Bank (East Varne and Mid Varne) and shortly afterwards grounded at the southern end of the Varne Bank.

There were no injuries to personnel and no pollution.

Action taken

The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the ship manager of the Lowlands Maine and made two recommendations:

  • Establish a programme of Bridge Team Management training for the masters and bridge watchkeepers on their vessels.

  • Review the company’s safety management system to ensure it incorporates procedures to monitor and review the training and competence of masters and bridge watchkeepers. Training provided should encompass the operation of ship-specific equipment such as navigation equipment and VDRs (voyage data recorders).

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