In 2022, the Dutch Safety Board published its report on the accident with the Dutch cargo vessel Eemslift Hendrika. In it, three recommendations were made to the ship’s operator, Amasus, to improve safety. Based on Amasus’ response, the Board now concludes that the recommendations were not followed up.
On 5 April 2021, the Dutch cargo vessel Eemslift Hendrika ran into difficulties off the coast of Norway during a northwestern storm. The cargo hold contained, among other things, azimuth thrusters.
A number of the azimuth thrusters in the cargo hold shifted and punctured an anti-heeling tank and ballastwater tanks. The water then flowed from the tanks into the cargo hold. As a result of the shifting azimuth thrusters and the ballast water leaking into the hold, the vessel developed a starboard list.
All crew members were evacuated. The vessel continued on its way on automatic pilot. The next morning it became clear that propulsion was lost. The wind was blowing the vessel slowly in the direction of the Norwegian coast. During the night, the vessel also lost a portion of the deck cargo, which took the jib of the deck crane with it, damaging the hull of the vessel.
On April 7, a Smit Salvage team managed to board the vessel after which it could safely be towed into Ålesund harbour.
Dutch Safety Board investigation report
In July 2022, the Dutch Safety Board publised its report after investigating the accident: “Emergency situation after sliding cargo – Lessons from the Eemslift Hendrika incident”.
The main conclusion of the investigation is that the rudder propellers became loose due to a lashing system that could not cope with the conditions during the sea voyage. Choosing to travel across the open sea with the predicted, bad weather conditions and against the owner’s advice, the margins of safe navigation were pushed.
In the report, the Board made three recommendations to the ship’s operator, Amasus:
1. In exceptional situations where the safety of the crew and the ship is or is likely to be compromised, use the possibility of imposing instructions on the master as a company and owner of ships.
2. Ensure that the stowage and lashing of unusual cargo, that is, cargo with an eccentric centre of gravity or deviating shape, can be carried out on board in such a way that reality is in accordance with the plan. This incident shows that when drawing up a plan that is feasible in practice, attention should be paid to at least the following topics:
- Making demonstrable use of the existing knowledge and experience of shipping unusal cargo that is present in the company and its employees.
- Using input data for the lashing calculations that is accurate and in accordance with reality.
- Requesting all necessary information for the shipping of cargo and sharing this with the crew.
3. If the original lashing plan is deviated from, check whether the changed method of stowing and/or lashing is sufficient to be able to load the cargo safely.
Recommendations not followed up
Based on Amasus’ response, the Dutch Safety Board has concluded that the recommendations were not followed.
In its response to the first recommendation, Amasus refers to the (international) laws and regulations that deal with safety on board ships. From that perspective, Amasus concludes that the master is responsible for making decisions related to safety on ships. However, the Board used a different perspective when making the recommendation, that of a ship owner or manager who has a responsibility for the safety of the property.
On the second and third recommendations, Amasus does not see any added value in following up on them because, in their view, there were no problems on these points in the incident. The cargo was adequately secured and instructions and communication about the cargo with the crew were in order.
Own lessons learned
In its response to the recommendations, Amasus says it has learned its own lessons. These are:
- The crew should inform the relevant parties, including the relevant departments of the shipping company of the way the cargo is stowed, so that any risks can be assessed in a timely manner in order to make the right trade-off to reduce the risk. Amasus will include this as an instruction in the next revision of the “management of change” procedure.
- In principle, mixed materials should not be used when lashing a load without consultation.
- Basically stick to the original written lashing plan, which included stoppers.
Based on this, the Board notes that there is a will to learn at Amasus, but calls on Amasus to look again at the report’s conclusions and recommendations and work with the lessons.
Although the recommendations focused on the shipmaster of this vessel, recommendation 1 in particular has a wider impact. Indeed, the Dutch Safety Board understands from the Netherlands Shipmasters’ Association (NVKK) that, in response to this recommendation, discussions have started in the sector on improvements in cooperation between masters and shipping companies.
Picture by Kees Torn/Flickr.