m/v swanland

UK Releases Report on Fatal 2011 ‘Swanland’ Sinking

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June 12, 2013

M/V Swanland. Image courtesy MAIB

The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch has released the report on their investigation into the catastrophic hull failure and fatal sinking of the general cargo ship MV Swanland in the Irish Sea in 2011.

The master and five crew of the Cook Islands-flagged general cargo ship were killed when the 34 year old Swanland sank in just 17 minutes after suffering a catastrophic hull failure while battling heavy seas in the middle of the night on November 11, 2011. Two of the vessel’s eight crew survived after managing to swim clear and were later rescued from a liferaft. The Swanland was carrying limestone from Raynes Jetty near Colwyn Bay to Cowes on the Isle of Wight when it sank.

The wreck of Swanland was found 12 miles off the Welsh coast at a depth of approximately 80 meters. Sonar and underwater surveys showed that the vessel was inverted on the seabed, with the hull appeared to be in one piece. The upper part of the vessel’s structure had failed in the midships region, on both the starboard and port sides.

The MAIB investigation report revealed that that the major factors contributing to the structural failure of the vessel included:

  • The limestone was a high density cargo that had been effectively loaded as a single pile within the central section of the hold and, as a result, significant stresses were generated in the vessel’s midships section.
  • The stresses in the midships section were exacerbated by the rough seas in which the wavelength was similar to the length of the vessel.
  • Swanland’s longitudinal strength had probably weakened significantly over the previous 2½ years through corrosion and wastage. The maintenance and repair of the vessel had lacked focus and oversight; no structural repairs had been undertaken since 2009.

Other contributing factors the MAIB report identified included: non-compliance with the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargo Code, insufficient loading information, a lack of effective safety management, poor quality of survey and audit, lack of oversight of the classification society by the Flag State and the financial pressures of operating this type of vessel in the current economic downturn. The investigation also identified several safety issues concerning the immersion suits and lifejackets available on board the vessel.

MAIB notes that, sadly, none of the factors identified in the report are new. Swanland is just one of 248 general cargo ships that are known to have foundered worldwide since 2002 with the loss of over 800 seafarers; 226 of the vessels were 15 years old or more and 139 of which were 27 years old or more. Concerns surrounding the safety and high loss rates of similar general cargo ships have been repeatedly raised at the International Maritime Organization, MAIB said in their report.

FULL REPORT: MAIB Swanland Report.pdf (6,051.24 kb)

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