Cargo Loading Errors Led to Hoegh Osaka Grounding on Bramble Bank – Incident Report

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March 17, 2016

The cargo ship Hoegh Osaka lies on its side after being deliberately ran aground on the Bramble Bank in the Solent estuary, near Southampton in southern England January 5, 2015. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The Hoegh Osaka had no chance of surviving the Bramble Bank turn shortly after the vessel departed from the port of Southampton on January 3, 2015 with inadequate stability, according to the investigation into the ship’s listing, flooding and grounding on the Bramble Bank in The Solent.

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch released its report on the investigation on Thursday, citing a failure to assess stability following cargo operations and prior to departure.

The Singapore-flagged pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) Hoegh Osaka had just departed the port of Southampton for Bremerhaven, Germany on Jan. 3, 2015 when it developed a significant starboard list as it rounded the West Bramble buoy in The Solent, causing some cargo shift and resulting in a breach of the hull and flooding. With the list in excess of 40 degrees, the ship lost steering and propulsion, eventually drifting onto the Bramble Bank.

Hoegh Osaka Route
Hoegh Osaka planned route.

Following the accident, all crew members were successfully evacuated from the ship or recovered from the surrounding waters and there was no pollution, but it took a major salvage operation to refloat the vessel get it to safe berth in Southampton nearly three weeks later.

A key finding of the investigation was that no departure stability calculation had been carried out on completion of cargo operations and before Hoegh Osaka sailed. The investigation revealed that prior to departure, the Hoegh Osaka’s routine itinerary had changed from its regular loading rotation between three north-west European ports, but the cargo loading plan was not adjusted to account for the itinerary changes. It was also noted that it was most likely that the cargo shifted due to the ship’s excessive list and was not causal to the accident.

In a statement to the media, Steve Clinch, The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents commented:

The MAIB’s investigation found that Hoegh Osaka’s stability did not meet the minimum international requirements for ships proceeding to sea. The cargo loading plan had not been adjusted for a change to the ship’s usual journey pattern and the number of vehicles due to be loaded according to the pre stowage plan was significantly different from than that of the final tally. The estimated weight of cargo was also less than the actual weight. Crucially, the assumed distribution of ballast on board, bore no resemblance to reality, which resulted in the ship leaving Southampton with a higher centre of gravity than normal.

Even more troubling, the investigation suggests that it is a general practice in the car carrier industry for ships to sail before an accurate departure stability condition has been calculated, on the assumption that their stability condition is safe.

“This accident is a stark reminder of what can happen when shortcuts are taken in the interest of expediency,” adds Clinch. “It is therefore imperative that working practices adopted by the car carrier industry ensure that there is always sufficient time and that accurate data is available on completion of cargo operations to enable the stability of such vessels to be properly calculated before departure.”

As a result of the investigation, the MAIB stated a number of safety lessons: 

  • Assessing a ship has adequate stability for its intended voyage on completion of cargo operations and before it sails is a fundamental principle of seamanship that must not be neglected. Sufficient time must be made before departure for an accurate stability calculation to be completed.
  • A loading computer is an effective and useful tool for the safe running of a ship. However, its output can only be as accurate as the information entered into it.
  • The master has ultimate responsibility for the safety of his/her ship. This responsibility cannot be delegated to shore-based managers or charterers’ representatives.

The MAIB has also made recommendations to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (2016/110), the Association of European Vehicle Logistics (2016/111) and the International Chamber of Shipping (2016/112), which seek to improve safety in this sector of the shipping industry.

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