You were sleepy, mate!

by Hans | April 15th, 2010

A sleep-starved first mate and failure to update a safety system caused a Chinese panamax to crash into the Great Barrier Reef last week, a report says.

A preliminary investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau suggests the first mate of the 70,200-dwt Shen Neng 1 (built 1993) had slept for only 2.5 hours in the 37 hours leading up to the accident. It said: “In essence, a simple succession of errors on the part of a very tired crew member had resulted in the grounding.”

As TradeWinds reported yesterday the master and a 44 years old crewman from the ship have been arrested. The captain, who was not on the bridge when the ship ran aground, faces a fine of AUD 55,000 ($51,300) if convicted. The other man faces three-years in jail and an AUD 220,000 fine. In its preliminary report issued this morning the ATSB indicates a course change a few hours before the crash may also have contributed to the casualty.

The ship’s GPS had been programmed to sound alarms if the Shen Neng 1 wondered off its original course. However, waypoints for the revised route were not entered. “Consequently, when the ship followed the amended track, the GPS unit and radar could not provide appropriate and relevant indications or alarms,” the report said. The first mate had intended to plot the vessel’s position half an hour before it “came to a shuddering stop” on Great Keppel Island. He delayed after the chief engineer entered the bridge and only made the calculation at 17:00 local time, when he realised he was in a “no go area”.

“He immediately ordered the duty seaman to engage hand steering and quickly alter course to starboard,” the report said. “Just as hand steering mode was engaged, the chief mate saw the speed rapidly decreasing to zero and the ship began to shudder. “The starboard helm applied had no effect and at 17:05, Shen Neng 1 grounded on a heading of 020º (T) and came to a shuddering stop.”

Source: TradeWinds – Andy Pierce


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