In the early hours of the morning on 22 August 2016, the 399m long ultra-large container vessel CMA CGM Vasco de Gama grounded on the western side of the Thorn Channel whilst approaching the Port of Southampton. The vessel was the largest UK-flagged vessel at the time and had two of the port’s specialist container ship pilots onboard.
The ship ran aground on a rising tide and on a flat shingle/sand sea-bed. A combination of tugs and ship’s engines enabled it to be re-floated soon after grounding.
MAIB has embarked on a study into the human factors associated with the use of modern electronic navigation aids and the implementation of mandated navigation standards.
The investigation found that the vessel’s bridge team and the port’s pilots had the experience, knowledge and resources available to plan and execute the passage effectively. However, the standards of navigation, communication and effective use of the electronic charting aids onboard did not meet the expectations of the port or the company.
A detailed plan had not been produced; the lead pilot had not briefed his plan for the turn round Bramble Bank; the bridge team’s roles and responsibilities were unclear. There was an absence of a shared understanding of the pilot’s intentions for passing other vessels, or for making the critical turns during the passage.
Neither the ship’s Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) not the pilot’s Portable Pilot Unit (PPU) functionality were fully utilized and resulted in each system not providing adequate cross checks or alarms.
The increasing size of vessels within restricted waterways, is leading to reduced margins of operational safety, and therefore the importance of proper planning and monitoring of the passage cannot be overemphasised.
ABP Southampton have been recommended (2017/144, 2017/145 and 2017/146) to improve their bridge resource management for its pilots; to consider the provision of provisional pilotage plans to vessels prior to pilot embarkation; to review its implementation of procedures and to improve standards of communication.
CMA Ships have been recommended (2017/141, 2017/142 and 2017/143) to review the implementation of company procedures for passage planning and use of ECDIS and to include pilotage and bridge team/pilot integration in its internal audit process.