Cargo Vessel's Grounding Attributed to Drunken Chief Officer

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch found that he "lost situational awareness due to his consumption of alcohol." The cargo vessel Lysblink Seaways ran aground at full speed in West Scotland on Feb. 18, 2015, resulting in a fuel spill and eventual scrapping of the vessel.

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) published its investigative report Nov. 19 into the grounding of the cargo vessel Lysblink Seaways on Feb. 18, 2015. The 7,409-ton general cargo vessel ran aground at about 2:30 a.m. at full speed in West Scotland, spilling 27.5 tons of fuel from tanks ruptured by the impact, because the officer on watch was drunk, it found. The report says the vessel's chief officer "lost situational awareness due to his consumption of alcohol" and that, when tested after the accident, his breath alcohol reading was seven times higher than the 0.35 limit set by the UK's Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 for professional seafarers.

When it ran aground, the ship was transporting 55 tons of scrap wastepaper from Belfast to Skogn, Norway. After the ship was salvaged, it was declared a constructive total loss and was scrapped, according to the report.

MAIB's investigation found that the chief officer was the sole watchkeeper when the ship went off course. The bridge navigational watch alarm system had not been switched on and an off-track alarm on the Electronic Chart System had been silenced. Had a lookout been on the bridge, that person "would have been well placed to alert the master to the OOW's condition and that navigational waypoints had been missed," it states.

Before going on watch, the chief officer had drunk about 0.5 liters of rum in his cabin while off duty after he made a private phone call that made him anxious, the report states.

This ship was managed by DFDS Logistics Rederi AS of Norway and owned by DFDS A/S of Copenhagen, Denmark. While the owner had a zero tolerance policy for alcohol in place at the time of the accident and the policy said random alcohol and drug tests would be carried out on its ships, the report says investigators found no evidence that any random alcohol tests had been carried out on the crew of the Lysblink Seaways before the accident. Because the owner has taken action to enhance compliance with its policy on its remaining ships, the branch did not make safety recommendations in its report.

The report says since 2004, MAIB has been informed of 11 additional groundings of merchant vessels of 100 gross tons or more in which the abuse of alcohol was a contributing factor.

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