MPA: Human Error and Poor Judgement Caused String of Singapore Ship Collisions

Ships at anchor near the Port of Singapore. Picture taken July 17, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su
Ships at anchor near the Port of Singapore. Picture taken July 17, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has concluded its investigations into a three separate collisions involving commercial vessels in and around Singapore that occurred over a two week period earlier this year, finding that human error and poor judgement were the main cause of all three.

Following the three collision incidents, each of which resulted in oil spills, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) conducted investigations to determine the causes of the incidents and to see if there were any systemic issues that led to the spate of incidents.

The three incidents in question included the January 29 collision between the Chinese-flagged containership, Fei He, and a Hong Kong-flagged chemical tanker, Lime Galaxy; the January 30 collision between the Panama-flagged containership, NYK Themis, and a barge was being towed by tug; and the February 10 collision between a Liberia-flagged containership, the Hammonia Thracium, and a Panama-flagged chemical tanker, Zoey. All three collisions resulted in oil being spilled, but no injuries to the crews.

The MPA found that in all three events, there was lack of situational awareness of the bridge teams, including the pilots, even though MPA’s Port Operations Control Centre (POCC) had provided advisories and warnings of the traffic situation to the bridge teams. The MPA said that bridge teams also did not make use the Automatic Identification System (AIS), Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA), Radar, and Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) to avoid the collisions.

Appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken against the members of the bridge teams, including the pilots, for contravening the relevant regulations, the MPA said.

Following the collisions, the MPA also formed a Safety Review Committee (SRC) to review the overall system of navigational safety in Singapore’s port waters and Singapore Strait, which found that there was no significant increase in the number of incidents between 2007 and 2013, nor was there apparent correlation in the occurrence of incidents and growth in vessel movements in the Singapore Strait or port waters.

The number of incidents over the last few years remained low and averaged about 0.012 and 0.016 per 1,000 vessel movements in the port waters and Singapore Strait, according to the MPA, and existing systems and procedures put in place by the MPA have helped to keep the incident rates low.

In presenting their findings, the MPA organized a dialogue session with more than 150 representatives from the shipping community to update them on the on the investigation and measures to enhance the safety of navigation in the region.

“MPA places a strong emphasis on the safety of navigation and takes a serious view of any incidents in Singapore waters,” said MPA Chief Executive, Mr Andrew Tan. “Moving forward, we will work more closely with all our industry partners to review our safety management procedures and implement additional measures to enhance navigational safety. We will also not hesitate to take appropriate actions against those who infringe our safety regulations.”

Some key follow ups from the investigation can be found on the MPA website HERE.