The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch has issued its investigation report into the August 2016 grounding of the UK-flagged ultra-large containership CMA CGM Vasco De Gama during its approach to the port of Southampton, determining that the incident was largely due to pilot error.
The 399-meter, 17,800 TEU containership Vasco de Gama grounded on the flat, sandy bottom on the western side of the Thorn Channel on its arrival to the Port of Southampton early on 22 August 2016. The ship, with two of the port’s containership pilots onboard, ran aground after overshooting a turn, causing the giant containership to the leave dredged shipping channel. The incident occurred during a rising tide, and the vessel was refloated shortly afterward by a combination of tugs and ship’s engines.
The vessel was the largest UK-flagged vessel at the time.
The MAIB launched an investigation 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, but “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,” the MAIB findings stated.
Another safety issue identified by the MAIB was that a detailed plan had not been produced, the lead pilot had not briefed his plan for the turn round Bramble Bank, and 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,” the MAIB report said.
Additionally, neither the ship’s ECDIS nor the pilot’s Portable Pilot Unit (PPU) functionality were fully utilized and resulted in each system not providing adequate cross checks or alarms, according to the MAIB’s findings.
The report also highlighted that “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 overemphasized.”
The MAIB made recommendations to ABP Southampton (2017/144, 2017/145 and 2017/146) to improve their bridge resource management for its pilots, consider the provision of provisional pilotage plans to vessels prior to pilot embarkation, review its implementation of procedures, and improve standards of communication.
CMA CGM has also 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.