Electrical failure on ro-ro cargo vessel West Express resulting in contact with quay

Location: Port of Heysham, England.

Completed PE Summary: West Express

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Vessel And Accident Details
Vessel Name: West Express
Ship Owner/Manager: Express Shipping A/S
Port of Registry: Montego Bay
Flag: Jamaica
Classification Society: DNV
Type: Ro-ro cargo
Built: 1978
Construction: Steel
Length Overall: 134.75m
Gross Tonnage: 9,368
Date/Time: 08 July 2008, 0503
Location of Incident: Heysham, UK
Incident Type: Contact
Persons on Board: 28
Injuries/Fatalities: Nil
Damage/Pollution: Material damage to the port quarter above the waterline


While manoeuvering inside Heysham port, with about 40% pitch set on the controllable pitch propellers (CPP), the vessel lost all electrical power when her three auxiliary engines suddenly stopped. As a result, the electrical hydraulic pumps supplying the vessel’s Controllable Pitch Propellers (CPPs) also stopped. This caused the propellers’ pitch to move to 100% astern. As the main engines were still running, the vessel’s speed astern towards a concrete quay increased. To arrest the vessel’s movement, the main engines were stopped using the emergency stop buttons on the bridge, and the starboard anchor was let go. However, this did not stop the vessel from making contact with the quay.

Action taken

The ship owner has:

  • Carried out a technical investigation that concluded the vessel’s auxiliary engines had shut down due to the performance of the differing automatic voltage regulators (AVRs) and speed governing motors fitted.

  • Initiated the replacement of the AVRs and speed governors.

  • Instructed the vessel’s crew to operate the auxiliary engines above 60 Hz at all times and to positively manage the starting of heavy duty electrical machinery until the AVR and governor problems have been addressed.

The Deputy Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the vessel’s owner and strongly advised that it:

  • Resolves the problems with the vessel’s auxiliary engines as soon as possible.

  • Establishes a robust on board planned maintenance system.

  • Ensures its crews are aware of the ‘fail-safe’ positions of critical equipment such as CPP systems.

Published: August 2008

Published 23 January 2015