MAIB reports on the girting and capsize of mooring launch Asterix

The MAIB report, recently published, into the incident leading to the ultimate loss of Asterix explains the issues surrounding the girting and capsize of the mooring launch while assisting manoeuvring of the small chemical tanker Donizetti at Fawley oil refinery, Southampton UK points to lack of communication and training. The two crew from the launch were rescued, the coxswain having been trapped in the upturned wheelhouse for more than an hour. The launch later sank however there was no pollution and although later recovered, the launch was declared a constructive total loss.

The MAIB investigation established that:
• Asterix’s coxswain was not advised that Donizetti was about to come ahead, and as the tanker increased speed he was unable to manoeuvre the mooring launch to run alongside it.
• Donizetti’s master, the pilot and Asterix’s coxswain did not share a common, detailed understanding of the plan, and once the operation commenced opportunities were missed for key information to be exchanged.
• Solent Towage Ltd’s risk assessments, procedural instructions and guidance, and inhouse training relating to launch towing operations lacked the necessary detail to inform launch crews of the appropriate use of gog ropes as mitigation against girting.
• The launch crews did not drill sufficiently in the use of the manually operated towing hook emergency release under load conditions, so they were ill-prepared to apply the increased force required to operate the system when it was under tension.

Although the intent of The Merchant Shipping (Boatmasters’ Qualifications, Crew and Hours of Work) Regulations 2015 is for masters engaged in towing operations to have a knowledge of the danger of girting and how to prevent it, anomalies currently exist in respect of towage endorsement qualification requirements. Until such time as these anomalies may be rectified, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been recommended to inform tug operators and port authorities of the importance of ensuring that masters engaged in towing operations have the necessary knowledge and skills.

Safety Issues:
The coxswain’s training did not equip him for the task, and specifically did not equip him to use the gog rope/bridal effectively
The launch was not being monitored effectively, and there were weaknesses in the communications between Donizetti and Asterix
Launch crews were not sufficiently experienced in the use of the emergency release mechanism and could not activate it effectively

Recommendations:
A recommendation has been made to Østensjø Rederi AS to have full regard to the findings and references to best practice included in this investigation report in implementing its action plan. Further recommendations have been made to Associated British Ports Southampton with regard to reviewing its assessment of towage operations within the port, and to the National Workboat Association with regard to taking account of the findings of this investigation report in its ongoing development of guidance on towing operations.

Read the MAIB report in full: MAIBInvReport10_2016

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