Proper use of navigation systems and correct bridge manning levels are crucial for safety on board seagoing vessels. This is the conclusion of the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) after investigating the collision between the freighter Helge and Wild Cosmos on September 9, 2022 near Denmark.

‘Systems and procedures on board are there for a reason,’ says Chris van Dam, chairman of the DSB. ‘Seafarers must recognise their own fallibility, which is part of good seamanship. Especially during the dark hours when their vigilance decreases due to fatigue and monotony.’

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Reduced situational awareness and monotony

The collision was caused by several factors. The crew of both ships did not fully use the existing bridge equipment. The chief officer of the Helge had seen the Wild Cosmos, but assessed that the ship did not pose a danger.

Human factors also played a role in the collision. Only one person was on the bridge on both ships. This led to reduced situational awareness that was exacerbated by monotony. Awareness of these limitations is one of the essences of good seamanship.

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Also check unlikely situations

The Dutch Safety Board investigated the collision and formulated lessons to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents. Attention to good seamanship remains important. This does not only mean acting on the basis of what is likely, but also regularly checking whether unlikely situations can occur.

Van Dam: ‘It is precisely this double check and proper use of the bridge systems and the correct bridge manning level that helps prevent dangerous situations.’

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Helge accident

On September 9, 2022, a collision occurred near Denmark between the Dutch freighter Helge and the freighter Wild Cosmos, flying the flag of the Bahamas. The collision severely damaged the freighter Helge. The crew of the Helge had to abandon ship. No one was seriously injured in the incident.

Picture by the Dutch Safety Board.

Also read: DSB: Fatal collision shows need for better sailing behaviour and regulations on Wadden Sea