Transport Malta issued an investigation report, concerning the allision of the Antigua & Barbuda registered heavy-lift “MARIA” and the consequent foundering of the Italian registered fishing vessel “ANGELA ARCELLA”, in the Grand Harbour, Valletta, on 9 August 2016.
At about 1206 on 09 August 2016, the Antigua & Barbuda registered motor vessel (MV) Maria made heavy contact with the Italian registered fishing vessel (FV) Angela Arcella and the Democratic Republic of Congo registered MV Union in the port of Valletta, Malta.
Maria was under pilotage and was preparing to berth at Laboratory Wharf. Union was safely moored alongside at Magazine Wharf, whereas FV Angela Arcella was also alongside at Ras Ħanzir.
On her final approach to the quay, Maria failed to stop in time and struck Angela Arcella. The bulbous bow penetrated the fishing vessel’s hull below the water line. Soon after the allision, Maria gained considerable sternway and struck Union on her stern. Consequently, the mooring ropes parted and Union was set adrift in the harbour. Maria was finally brought under control and secured at Magazine Wharf. Meanwhile, another pilot boarded Union and with the assistance of a tug boat, berthed her at Laboratory Wharf.
Both Maria and Union sustained structural damage. Angela Arcella reported progressive flooding and consequently lost her reserve buoyancy and foundered at its berth. No injuries and pollution were reported as a result of this accident.
The Marine Safety Investigation Unit (MSIU) concluded that the immediate cause of the allision was the slow response of the controllable pitch propeller (CPP) system. Maria did not instantly responded to the master’s astern command, so the CPP did not develop sufficient power in time to counter the vessel’s headway and prevent the bulbous bow from striking the fishing vessel. The controlling effect of dropping anchor, with the bow thruster full to port on the vessel’s advance or direction was difficult to estimate.
Other Safety Factors
- The pilot had already set out to board Maria and the changes made to the berth plan were neither directly communicated to him nor the VTS operator.
- VTS operators cannot see the bollards’ numbers and therefore any feedback in this respect to the pilot is limited, if at all possible.
- Communication, at least between a number of parties (pilots, Terminal operator, and VTS) was not necessarily straight forward.
- The evolving situation was an additional (cognitive) burden on the pilot who had to make a number of calls to the VTS and the Terminal operator at a crucial time during the approaches to the berth.
- The master was expecting a rapid ship response to his astern command and the headway of the vessel and her approach to the berth and the fishing vessel may have amplified the perceived delay.
- The slow but progressive astern running of the propeller was not readily apparent to the master.
- The back-up supply power dropped to zero, resulting in zero pitch feedback which the chief engineer observed in the ECR console.
- As a result of the uncertainty of the prevailing situation and the unanticipated developments on the bridge at a critical time, the pitch control lever was inadvertently left in the astern position. Consequently, the vessel developed a sternway and eventually made contact with another vessel when the anchor chain became taut.
- The performance variability in the communication system was not a one-off event because it is not being monitored and mitigated well.
- SAL Heavy Lift GmbH Ltd. is recommended to include in its safety management system a requirement for regular tests of the CPP back-up system;
- Ports & Yachting Directorate of Transport Malta is recommended to take the initiative to organise meetings for the main stakeholders involved, not least the Malta Maritime Pilots Co-operative and the Terminal operator, in order to address the identified shortcomings with respect to adequate and effective communication channels and timely berth allocations / changes.
Further information may be found by reading the full report: