Sovcomflot Tanker Busted for Using Scanned Paper Charts Through Great Barrier Reef

scf yenisei
Image via marinetraffic

Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal last week affirmed the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s October 2013 detention of the 2007-built Liberian-flagged product tanker SCF Yenisei.

The vessel is operated by SCF Unicom, a Sovcomflot subsidiary and last year sailed to Mackay, Australia through the Great Barrier Reef without using the proper navigational charts, according to the AMSA.

An AMSA surveyor found that the ship was using scanned and printed charts in order to transit Palm Passage, a route that was different from the original planned passage through Hydrographers Passage.

Hydrographer’s Passage requires a pilot be flown to the ship via helicopter without using a winch, however the ship was not equipped for such a pilot transfer and thus diverted to Palm Passage where no pilot was required.

“Scanned charts were requested from ElectroRadioNavigation Chamber Ltd, an official distributor of hydrographic charts,” according to an investigation document released by the Administration Appeals Tribunal. “The copies were received in colour print and were apparently up-to-date,” the document notes.

The AMSA surveyor’s inspection resulted in detention of the SCF Yenisei as it was deemed “unseaworthy and substandard” according to SOLAS regulations. The report notes, “The [Safety Management System] has not ensured the vessel is supplied with appropriate official navigation charts for its navigation.”

According to the AMSA’s interpretation of SOLAS Convention, “a voyage can only be considered to be adequately planned if the master of the vessel has ensured that correct charts are carried on-board not only for the intended voyage, but also for foreseeable contingencies including weather, variation of destination port, and illness on board.”

In its written submissions, the AMSA noted that the meridians of longitude and latitude will not align when the chart is assembled from a scanned/photocopied version. It also noted that the colors used to depict depth contours will not be accurately reproduced. It said “[w]hen navigating in close proximity to hazards (such as transiting the Great Barrier Reef) even very small errors are amplified by the scale of the chart.”

The manager of the vessel, Captain Yury Mogilyuk sought to have the detention of the vessel downgraded at the tribunal, alleging the deficiency identified by an AMSA port marine surveyor was not serious enough to warrant detention, however AMSA Ship Safety Division General Manager Allan Schwartz supported the tribunal’s decision while noting, “Having the correct charts to navigate through the Great Barrier Reef, which is notoriously hazardous and of high environmental significance, is critical to ensure the safety of the Reef, the ship and its crew.”

The SCF Yenisei was released from detention, subject to conditions, on 5 October 2013, a day after it was initially detained.