In the early morning of 18 September 2013, the Malta registered chemical tanker, Ovit, carrying a cargo of vegetable oil, ran aground on the Varne Bank in the Dover Strait, England. The vessel remained aground for just under 3 hours and damage to the vessel was superficial.
Ovit’s primary means of navigation was an ECDIS and analysis of this system, its installation, training and operation form the backbone of this report. Key safety factors identified were:
The passage plan was unsafe as it passed directly over the Varne Bank. It had been prepared in ECDIS by an inexperienced and unsupervised junior officer and was not checked by the master before departure.
The OOW followed the track shown on the ECDIS display but had such poor situational awareness that it took him 19 minutes to realise the vessel was aground.
ECDIS safety settings were not appropriate to the local conditions and the audible alarm was disabled; after the accident, the historical track could not be recovered from the system.
Dover coastguard’s CNIS had a system and procedure for warning ships approaching the Varne Bank. However, on this occasion, the warning was not issued to Ovit as the coastguard watch officer operating CNIS was unqualified, unsupervised and distracted.