MAIB report into sinking of SWANLAND Irish Sea 27 Nov 2011 with the loss of six crew

The MAIB has published its investigation report today, following the structural failure and foundering of the general cargo ship SWANLAND in the Irish Sea on 27 November 2011 with the loss of six crew.

SWANLAND was a typical small, hard-working general cargo ship working in the scrag end of the bulk cargo market where financial margins are tight. The events leading up to her loss arguably accumulated over the 34 years of her service life, as well as her original design and construction. Her revenues were low and had been further diminished by the recent downturn in the shipping industry. Indeed, SWANLAND had been making a financial loss for some time and her owner had only continued to operate her in the hope that the market would eventually improve.

Nevertheless, SWANLAND was subjected to the standard regulatory framework laid down by the IMO and, at the time of the accident, she was certified as complying with all applicable statutory requirements. The vessel had recently been inspected by her flag state, her classification society and her managers, and had undergone numerous PSC inspections; no significant concerns had been raised about her condition or operation. Despite this, she was structurally unsound and the survey process has let this crew down badly. It is unlikely that there are too many owners of large yachts chasing non-IACS classification societies for an easy survey regime, and the construction of large yachts would not normally result in such rapid loss of structure and subsequent rapid loss. The Master and crew cannot be criticised too heavily for their actions on abandonment, but some lessons can be learned by the superyacht crew. Seagoing vessels rarely founder in fine weather and drills will generally lack the harsh reality of abandonment in filthy weather in winter. Understanding the correct donning and fastening of immersion suits and lifejackets is essential.

For those on board Watkins' managed boats, please ensure that all crewmembers are given an opportunity to read this and confirm so in your next HESS meeting minutes. I can be contacted at any time if anyone has any questions.