This reports the MAIB’s investigation into the grounding of the general cargo vessel Danio in the Farne Islands nature reserve, off the east coast of England, at 0330 on 16 March 2013. The chief officer, who was the officer on watch, had fallen asleep. The very high workload placed on the two deck officers was typical of that found on many near coastal vessels trading in European waters. Unfortunately, as is commonly found after such accidents, the available barriers against fatigue, such as the Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System and the use of lookouts had been circumvented.
Chief Inspector’s statement
A significant finding from the MAIB’s 2004 Bridge Watchkeeping Safety Study was that two watchkeepers were not enough to operate sea-going vessels safely, especially when their 6 hours on / 6 hours off watchkeeping pattern was frequently disrupted by port calls. The UK pressed for an increase to the minimum manning of merchant vessels over 500gt, but this was not supported by other States. Ten years on, the situation remains unchanged, and since the Safety Study, the MAIB has recorded a further 9 groundings of vessels operating with just two watchkeepers. Investigation of these accidents shows that the mandated safety barriers, intended to limit the effects of cumulative fatigue that are endemic in this sector of the industry, are not working.
Today [2 April 2014], I have recommended that further efforts are made by the UK to solve the problem of fatigue through international consensus with the aim that all vessels engaged in short sea trades carry a minimum of two navigational watchkeepers in addition to the master. If we do not ensure that vessels operating in and around our waters are adequately manned to enable safe navigation, then it is only a matter of time before we suffer a major accident involving loss of life or serious pollution or both.
The chief officer, who was on watch at the time, was asleep for more than 3 hours before the vessel ran aground. No lookout was posted and the bridge watch alarm was turned off.
The chief officer worked 17 hours in the previous port and was likely to have been suffering from the effects of cumulative fatigue. The hours of work and rest on Danio had been falsified.
Following a recommendation from the MAIB in its 2004 Bridge Watchkeeping safety study, the United Kingdom attempted to secure an international mandate for a minimum of three watchkeepers on commercially operated cargo vessels. This initiative received insufficient support from other European flag administrations. Therefore, a new recommendation has now been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to work closely with the European Commission and EU member states, to propose to the IMO that all vessels engaged on short sea trades carry a minimum of two navigational watchkeepers in addition to the master.