Limited Data, Extreme Rolling to Blame for Svendborg Maersk Cargo Loss -REPORT

Svendborg Maersk Laden
Svendborg Maersk after departure from Rotterdam on 13 February 2014. Photo: Frans Sanderse/Shipspotting via DMAIB

The Master’s decision-making based on limited data and extreme rolling caused the loss of the 517 containers and damage to another 250 units aboard the MV Svendborg Maersk during adverse weather in the Bay of Biscay, the Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board has determined.

The Danish-flagged 8,160 TEU containership encountered adverse weather conditions after exiting the English Channel on 14 February 2014, one day after departing from Rotterdam bound for the Suez Canal and Far East.

A Marine Accident Report released Monday by the Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board determined that the cargo loss was primarily due the heavy rolling when conditions became more severe than the forecast had predicted. The report showed that while the master did expect to encounter adverse weather conditions on the route, he lacked concern over what was forecasted upon departure from Rotterdam.

The majority of the containers lost or damaged was the result of sudden and violent rolling experienced on two occasions on February 14 in the northern portion of the Bay of Biscay off Ushant Island. The first occurred at 1643 when without warning the ship rolled six to eight times, reaching an angle of 38 degrees to starboard and causing the loss of some containers. The second rolling incident came at 1913 when the ship reached an extreme angle of 41 degrees to port, which again caused a large number of containers to be lost overboard.

Following the second incident, the Master became concerned about the overall safety of the ship and crew and he sounded the general alarm to muster the crewmembers. As the weather subsided, the MV Svendborg Maersk proceeded towards Malaga, Spain where it arrived on 17 February 2014.

Photo shows toppled containers aboard Svendborg Maersk upon arrival in Malaga. Photo: Maersk Line A/S via DMAIB
Photo shows toppled containers aboard Svendborg Maersk upon arrival in Malaga. Photo: Maersk Line A/S via DMAIB

The DMAIB investigation found that lashing gear for 600 to 700 containers sustained damaged in the incident, and a later count found that 517 units were lost overboard, of which 442 were empty and 75 were carrying non-dangerous goods. Another 250 units were found to be damaged, the report said. There was also some damage and loss to equipment on deck and some minor damage to the ship’s structure, the report said.

Video: This Is What 40 Degree Rolling Looks Like

A number of factors coincided and caused the incidents and subsequent consequences, the DMAIB determined. In the analysis, the DMAIB addressed topics such as the master´s decision making and the information available to him, as well as optimization processes and the ship´s capability to withstand adverse weather conditions.

The conclusion reads:

An adverse weather situation was forcasted in SPOS and the ship had prepared for this. However, the weather as a combination of dynamic forces and the extremities encountered by Svenborg Maersk was not expected by the master and crew crewmembers. It was inherently challenging, beforehand, by the means available, to gain a mental overview depicting the exact weather and wave situation the ship encountered during the incidents, including the ship’s motional behavior, as many variables were involved.

The master’s decision-making prior to the heavy weather navigation was largely reliant on his personal experience with heavy weather and the ship he commanded. Decision-making was challenged during uncertain and dynamic conditions with limited data on hand, or a limited recognition of their meaning in combination with the generic SMS procedures available, that will inherently have a deviance in work as described and how work is carried out, which provided poor decision-making support for the master. The quality of the master’s decisions would therefor only be obvious afterwards, when the outcome was known.

The report does note and contain information received from Maersk Line about preventive actions taken.

We encourage you to read the English version of the full report HERE.

Note: This post was updated to reflect that limited data provided poor decision-making support for the Master.