MAIB: Watch Officer Was Watching Videos on Phone Before Grounding

priscilla aground
Photo courtesy MAIB

A UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch investigation has revealed that the sole watch officer on board the general cargo ship Priscilla was watching videos on his phone prior to the ship running aground off the coast of Scotland in July 2018.

The Netherlands-registered M/V Priscilla was sailing from Lithuania to England when she ran aground on Pentland Skerries in the eastern entrance of Pentland Firth in Scotland early in the morning on July 18, 2018.

According to the MAIB, for about 2 hours prior to the accident, the officer of the watch had been unaware that Priscilla was drifting away from the planned passage. Once noticing that the vessel was off track, the officer chose an alternative route that resulted in the vessel heading directly into the Pentland Skerries.

The MAIB said the accident happened because the officer of the watch was distracted from monitoring the passage by watching videos on his mobile phone and possibly falling asleep. 

“He was the sole lookout at night as the vessel headed towards land, and the electronic navigation system was not set up to warn of danger ahead. Priscilla’s officer or the watch also responded to two radio calls from shore authorities warning of the danger ahead; however, his reaction to the warnings was not sufficient to avoid danger,” the MAIB said in a summary of the report.

Safety lessons identified by the MAIB include monitoring the vessel’s progress along the planned passage is a vital component of safe navigation, and the officer of the watch should not become distracted from this responsibility; reducing to a sole lookout must be properly assessed; it was not appropriate at night when Priscilla was heading towards Pentland Firth; and electronic navigation aids should always be set up to aid the officer of the watch by giving warning of danger ahead.

The agency made a safety recommendation (2019/118) to the owner of Priscilla to take measures necessary to improve the standards of watchkeeping and safety management on board.

The Priscilla was eventually refloated about a week after the grounding. The incident caused significant hull damage, but there was no pollution or injury.

You can find the full MAIB report here