UK MAIB Issues Investigation Report Into Fatal Capsizing of Tug During Ship Assist

Tug Domingue connected to the CMA CGM Simba, September 20, 2016. Photo: MAIB

A UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch investigation into the fatal capsizing of a harbor tug while assisting a CMA CGM containership in the port of Tulear, Madagascar identified a number of safety issues that contributed to the accident.

The 56.87 gross tonne tug Domingue girted and capsized while assisting the container ship CMA CGM Simba departing from the port of Tulear, Madagascar on September 20, 2016. As a result of accident, two of the Domingue’s five crew members died.

Photo of CMA CGM Simba alongside in Tulear. Credit: MAIB

According to the MAIB investigation report, the Domingue had been connected to CMA CGM Simba’s port quarter to help pull the vessel’s stern off the berth. During the maneuver, the prevailing tidal conditions caused CMA CGM Simba to move towards a mooring dolphin. To avoid striking the dolphin, CMA CGM Simba’s master briefly maneuvered his vessel ahead, while the pilot did not warn the tug that they would be coming ahead. As CMA CGM Simba built up ahead speed, the tug girted and capsized.

The accident occurred during the ship’s first call at Tulear at the start of a new route that linked the ports of Ehola and Tulear, Madagascar, with Durban, South Africa.

The MAIB report identified three safety issues contributed to the accident.

First, the investigation found the Domingue was less maneuverable than the port’s normal tug, which was undergoing maintenance at the time, and its crew were inexperienced in assisting ships.

Second, the tug was not fitted with a gog rope, nor did the towing point have any mechanism to release the tow in an emergency and doors and hatches on the tug were open.

Finally, the report said the extent to which a plan for CMA CGM Simba’s departure had been discussed between the pilot and Domingue’s skipper before commencement is uncertain, and during the maneuver no-one on board CMA CGM Simba monitored the tug’s position.

Credit: MAIB

The MAIB said in view of current published guidance and the actions since taken by CMA CGM Simba’s manager Midocean (IOM) Ltd, no recommendations have been made. Following the accident, Midocean highlighted to its fleet the dangers of working with tugs, including girting, and measures that should be taken to minimize the risks.

The scope of the MAIB investigation focused on aspects concerning the involvement of CMA CGM Simba with only observations relating to the tug Domingue due limited access to evidence.