Delegation from Panama Maritime Authority investigates the Wakashio accident

The Panama Maritime Authority continues its investigation into the Wakashio accident. Photo courtesy of Mobilisation Nationale Wakashio
The Panama Maritime Authority continues its investigation into the Wakashio accident. Photo courtesy of Mobilisation Nationale Wakashio

The Panama Maritime Authority has given a report on the progress of the safety investigation into the Wakashio accident at the Mauritius Islands when the vessel Wakashio ran aground and subsequently broke up.

A delegation of experts in maritime accidents has arrived in Mauritius and is currently gathering information through face-to-face interviews with members of the ship’s crew.

The Panama Maritime Authority delegation has been able to gather evidence and confirm that on July 25 2020, while the vessel Wakashio was sailing en route to Brazil, its crew celebrated the birthday of one of the crew members; furthermore, the ship deviated from its approved navigation plan at the time of sailing from Singapore on the route approved by the captain and his deck officers, which would have taken them to their destination safely.

As far as the evidence shows, it has been possible to know, thanks to statements made by the crew members themselves, that this change of course was the result of orders issued by the captain of the ship, who commanded passing about 5 miles off the coast of Mauritius to look for a telephone and internet signal in order for crew members to communicate with their families.

It should be noted that the captain of the ship, the chief engineer and the first officer were on the navigation bridge when approaching land; however, no action was implemented to correct the course and avoid a dangerous situation; in fact, the last position taken in the ECDIS (integrated system of nautical charts and navigation equipment) was at 1802 LT, and the grounding of the ship was recorded at 1925 LT.

With an appropriate assessment safeguard and with good seamanship practices that should have generated an analysis which would have allowed to carry out the pertinent actions to correct this situation.

The Panama Maritime Authority delegation confirms that there were people with sufficient experience of such a problem on the navigation bridge. It was also possible to evidence an erroneous appreciation with regards the use of the Electronic Nautical Chart since it seems that the vessel did not have the appropriate chart onboard. In fact it seems the wrong chart was used and with the wrong scale as well.

Of concern to the Panama Maritime Authority delegation was the lack of supervision and monitoring of the navigation equipment, the distraction generated by the officer of watch, who completely lost the course of navigation and the excess of confidence during the watch, all of which could be some of the reasons that caused the ship to run aground on the Mauritian beaches.

The Panama Maritime Authority delegation continues with its investigations. The delegation is expected to interview the captain, the first officer, and to have access to the VDR (voyage data recorder) and essential documents for the investigation, which are in the custody of the Police of the Republic of Mauritius.

Read another accident report: DMAIB report: Loss of rescue boat stresses importance of wire rope maintenance

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