MAIB: Drunk Master Left Bridge Before Grounding

The M/V Ruyter. Photo courtesy MAIB

The master of a Netherlands-registered cargo ship was drinking prior to when his vessel ran aground in Northern Ireland last October, the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch said in its report on the incident.

The general cargo vessel M/V Ruyter ran aground on the north shore of Rathlin Island just after 11 p.m on 10 October 2017 when the master, who was the sole watchkeeper at the time, left the bridge unattended.

The investigation revealed that the master had been consuming alcohol prior to taking over the watch from the chief officer. However, the chief officer, who had previously warned the master against excessive consumption of alcohol, was satisfied that the master was fit for watchkeeping duties.

The MAIB further noted that the bridge navigational watch alarm system, which could have alerted the chief officer to the fact that the bridge was unmanned when the master left, had been switched off. Consequently, no action was taken to correct a deviation from the ship’s planned track, the MAIB said.

There were no injuries or pollution as a result of the incident, but Ruyter’s bow shell plating and frames were damaged.

The MAIB listed three safety lessons from its investigation.

First, the MAIB determined that when the sole watchkeeper left the bridge unattended and the bridge navigational watch alarm was turned off, there was no means to alert the chief officer to the fact that the bridge was unmanned. More obviously, the consumption of alcohol prior to taking over the watch had an adverse effect on the master’s ability to maintain a safe navigational watch.

Finally, the MAIB stated that although the chief officer had concerns about the master’s excessive alcohol consumption, he did not feel sufficiently empowered to raise the matter with the company.

The MAIB did not make any recommendations in the report.

The ship’s manager, VD Innovation BV, has since taken action, including the introduction of random alcohol testing and the empowerment of its crews to alert any concerns they may have to the company, the MAIB said in the report. 

Link to the MAIB Report: Grounding of general cargo vessel Ruyter

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