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MAIBInvReport6_2016Many readers, on looking at the image above, will remember the incident. The Hoegh Osaka, a car carrier, developed a severe list (in excess of 40 degrees) as she was rounding the Brambles outbound from Southampton, and eventually grounded, as shown above, on Bramble Bank. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) have now published their report. You can find it on the MAIB website.

The investigation report found that the ship heeled as a result of having inadequate stability. This was due to several factors, among them the cargo distribution and the way the ship had been ballasted. The report goes into great detail about the way the ship was configured as she left Southampton,  but also says “Witness and anecdotal evidence suggests that the practice of not calculating a departure stability condition on completion of cargo operations and before a ship sails extends beyond the chief officer, Hoegh Osaka, Wallem and Hoegh Outliners, to the PCC/PCTC sector in general . The chief officer placing little value on the importance of conducting accurate stability calculations appears to be widespread such that for reasons of efficiency, as highlighted in the MAIB’s Riverdance investigation, ships are sailing under the assumption that their stability condition is safe. What is a fundamental principle of seamanship appears to have been allowed to drift, giving rise to potential unsafe practices“.

The report is long and detailed, and makes interesting reading. It gives a good insight into the day-to-day complexity of something we all take for granted, and which at times we’ve seen (on TV programmes) treated almost as a game – unloading and loading cars off/onto a car carrier. This report shows that it is not a game at all.

Indeed, the consequences can be very severe. Not just for the mariners immediately involved – fortunately no-one died in this incident, although one crew member who fell 18 metres along a passageway that had become a chute, thanks to the list, suffered broken limbs, and two others went into the sea for a short time. The report makes it clear that because the ship’s rudder and propeller were clear of the water, her eventual resting place (on Bramble Bank) was achieved by chance – she was drifting. Given that she was taking on water (some cargo that had broken free had pierced the shell plating) it’s not impossible that she could have settled somewhere else and blocked the deepwater channel into Southampton. And that would have been that, until she could have been moved – no container ships in or out, no tankers into Fawley refinery, and no cruise ships. A near miss, I think.

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