Loss of engine oil pressure on coastal tanker Breaksea

Location: 4 miles south of Tuskar Rock, Republic of Ireland.

Completed PE Summary: Breaksea

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Registered Owner & Manager:   Crescent Marine Services
Type:   Coastal Tanker
Date   26/03/06
Location of incident:   4 miles south of Tuskar Rock
Incident Type:   Machinery Failure


The coastal tanker Breaksea, was on passage from Whitegate, Cork to Dundalk with 1500 tons of mixed product onboard. The wind was from the south at force 7, the sea was rough and there was a 4 metre southerly swell running. At 1450, while approximately 4 miles south of Tuskar Rock the main engine lubricating oil level was lost and the pressure dropped to zero. The master was advised of the seriousness of the situation but, because of the risk of being set onto the shore he required engine power to be maintained for as long as possible.

At 1545 the Irish Coastguard was advised of the situation. In the meantime the engineers tried to identify the cause of the oil loss while manually transferring oil to the engine. At 1604 the master authorised the engine to be stopped.

The Kilmore and Rosslare lifeboats arrived on scene by 1825 and the Irish Navy vessel Aoife arrived soon after and connected a tow line.The line was then transferred to one of two support tugs just after midnight. The Breaksea was subsequently towed to Great Island power station jetty near Watford for defect investigation.

Investigations revealed that the sump, oil return gearwheel pump drive shaft had sheared due to torsional overload, which, was itself caused by the pump becoming seized by a sliver of metal. This allowed the drive pinion to fall into the sump causing a large fracture through which the oil escaped. The origin of the metal sliver is being assessed by the engine manufacturer.

Action taken

The Chief Inspector identified the following issues which merits further action by Crescent Marine Services Limited:

  • Review company guidance to cover the need for masters to promptly alert the appropriate authorities to an emergency situation.

  • Consider fitting a run down system from the lubricating oil storage tank to the engine lubricating oil tank to enable rapid transfer of oil in an emergency

  • Examine improvement to the engine room/bridge talk back system which is severely degraded by engine room noise levels

The Chief Inspector also commended the actions of Breaksea’s engineering staff on managing to maintain engine power in very difficult circumstances

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