Scottish Geology Trust - Festival - 11-19 September
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Transport / Ferry and harbour operators tighten procedures following cargo boat grounding last summer

The Arrow sustained 'significant damage' to her hull when she grounded at Aberdeen harbour. Photo: Michael Bracken

THE UK’s marine safety agency has made no recommendations following an investigation into how a Serco NorthLink freight vessel ran aground at the entrance to Aberdeen Harbour last summer.

The incident took place on 25 June 2020, with the cargo vessel Arrow sustaining “significant damage” to her hull before being refloated and guided to a berth with the assistance of a harbour tug.

Investigators from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said the Isle of Man-registered ferry grounded in thick fog at 7.27am on the day in question.

She had encountered the fog a few minutes before entering Aberdeen’s 70-metre wide navigation channel. The Arrow had a pilot exemption certificate (PEC) whose holder was navigating using radar and steering the vessel when she became overloaded.

After deviating to the north of the planned route, the ship’s master “over corrected to the south” but this was “not noticed by the bridge team in time to avoid the grounding”, the MAIB report stated.

The Arrow then began to “list significantly in the falling tide”. After confirming no water had come in the hull, with the assistance of a tug the ship’s master used the vessel’s engines and bow thruster to refloat the vessel.

“There were no injuries or pollution but there was significant damage to the hull,” the report states.

The MAIB identified four safety issues:

  • The bridge team was “not fully prepared for pilotage in restricted visibility”;
  • The level of support provided to the PEC holder by the bridge team was “poor”;
  • Navigation techniques used did not provide the bridge team with an accurate view of the available safe water in the Aberdeen approach channel;
  • “Poor bridge ergonomics” and “limited electronic chart system capabilities” left the PEC holder navigating using radar only.

The report states that Seatruck Ferries Limited, which leases the ferry to NorthLink, has tightened its internal procedures and monitoring following the incident.

It also states that Aberdeen Harbour Board has bolstered its checks and training, including the development of a programme to ensure Serco NorthLink certificate holders to be trained to the same level as the harbour’s own pilots.