MAIB: Seatruck Performance Grounded After Late Turn from ‘Nervous’ New Master

Mike Schuler
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February 7, 2020
Damage to the Seatruck Performance port side. Photo: MAIB

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) says a newly promoted Captain became the single-point of failure due to a lack of support from his bridge team in the grounding of the roll-on/roll-off vessel Seatruck Performance in Northern Ireland last year.

The Isle of Man-registered Seatruck Performance grounded just before midnight on May 8, 2019, while transiting the Greenore Channel soon after departing Warrenpoint for passage to Heysham, England,

The vessel remained underway, but quickly developed a 7° list to port from a large breach on the ferry’s port side hull. 

The vessel was able to return to Warrenpoint without assistance and there were no injuries to its 11 passengers and 22 crew.

The MAIB investigation identified that “the ferry’s outbound passage
had not been sufficiently planned and, specifically, the effects of squat had not been adequately considered; the electronic navigation system was not being used effectively; and the newly appointed master, who was mainly navigating by eye, was not being effectively supported by the other officers on the bridge.”

The ro-ro freight ferry Seatruck Performance. Photo: MAIB

According to the MAIB report, the 52-year-old Polish captain had just been promoted to Master after serving for 7 years as a chief officer. He was also familiar with the route, having done it on 10 occasions in the past.

The May 8 voyage happened to be his first in command of the ship following a 2-day handover.

The report noted that the master accepted the promotion on the condition of a 6-month trial period where he would be allowed to return to chief officer “if he felt uncomfortable with the additional responsibilities of command, particularly in the winter months,” the report said. The night before the voyage the master did not sleep well.

The ferry grounded after entering the western end of the Greenore Channel “as a result of its heading being altered later than intended,” the report said.

“The visibility was good, and the buoys were lit. However, unlike the previous departures, the master had ultimate responsibility, and his apparent hesitancy to continue the turn to starboard in the half-minute between 2241:51 and 2242:23 was possibly influenced by the pressure of the situation. The master’s insistence on taking command for a ‘trial period’ and the delegation of shiphandling to the chief officer during the ferry’s arrival in Warrenpoint suggests he was nervous and/or not confident. Such nervousness and/or a lack in confidence probably led to a self- imposed pressure, compounded by the fact that it was the master’s first departure from Warrenpoint in command, it was dark, he had not slept well the previous night and he had not rested during the day. The unexpected heading movement to port shortly after selecting hand-steering, and the presence of the confident chief officer on the bridge, potentially unsettled the master even further, causing him to falter under pressure, a behaviour where a person performs below expectation given their skill level, possibly due to overthinking a task rather than it happening automatically,” the MAIB wrote in the report.

The MAIB has made a recommendation to Seatruck Ferries to “take further measures to enhance the safe navigation of its vessels by optimising its use of electronic navigation systems to provide real time positional information, and enhancing its Bridge Resource Management training.”

The MAIB’s full report can be found here.

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