AIS Reliance Contributed to Dover Strait Collision -REPORT

Photo credit: MAIB
Photo credit: MAIB

An investigation by the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch into a January 2014 collision between a Rickmers’ cargo ship and a crane barge in the Dover Strait has found that the cargo ship’s watch officer was overly reliant on AIS information displayed on the ECDIS and did not maintain a proper lookout or pay attention to the ship’s radar leading up to collision.

On 10 January 2014, the Liberian-flagged multi-purpose cargo ship, Rickmers Dubai, collided with the un-manned crane barge, Walcon Wizard, which was being towed by the tug Kingston in the south-west traffic lane of the Dover Strait Traffic Seperation Scheme. The accident occurred as Rickmers Dubai was overtaking the tug and its tow.

Immediately following the collision, the towline caught on Rickmers Dubai and Kingston was towed stern-first through the water until the towline ran free from its tow winch. Walcon Wizard was badly damaged and Rickmers Dubai’s hull was punctured above the waterline. The hydraulic system for the tow winch on board Kingston was also damaged. There were no injuries and there was no pollution as a result of the incident.

The MAIB report found that:

  • Rickmers Dubai’s OOW was alone on the bridge and he did not see Walcon Wizard. He did not keep a visual lookout or monitor the radar. Instead, he relied solely on AIS information for collision avoidance, which neither Kingston nor Walcon Wizard were transmitting.
  • The OOW was relatively inactive throughout his watch and did not take note of safety broadcasts issued by Dover Coastguard which included information regarding the position and movement of Kingston and its tow.
  • The towline secured to the winch on board Kingston could not be released from the wheelhouse, highlighting ambiguities in the regulatory requirements for the release of towlines.

Full MAIB Report (pdf): Accident Investigation Report 29/2014