MAIB report into the collision between RICKMERS DUBAI with the crane barge WALCON WIZARD being towed by the tug KINGSTON, Dover Straits 11 January 2014:

The MAIB has published their investigation report into the collision of the general cargo vessel RICKMERS DUBAI with the crane barge WALCON WIZARD under tow of tug KINGSTON in the south-west lane of the Dover Strait traffic separation scheme on 11 January 2014:

Another classic example of catastrophic bridge watchkeeping. AIS has undergone mission creep from what was a vehicle for VTS and others to be able to identify traffic, to an all-singing all-dancing substitute for common sense and compliance with the collision regulations. Indeed, IMO has said that ‘the potential of AIS as an anti-collision device is recognised and AIS may be recommended as such a device in due time'*. Oh great. Thanks Guys.

In this case, the officer of the watch of the overtaking vessel was alone on the bridge and did not see the towed vessel as he closed on it. The report also describes him as ‘relatively inactive' throughout his watch, and VHF broadcasts went unheeded. It would appear that as well as failing to keep an effective visual lookout, he did not allow radar to intrude on his world either, relying solely on AIS information. Unfortunately, neither tug nor tow were transmitting on AIS. Over to you, IMO……..

This officer's actions appear in keeping with an apparent casual attitude to navigational risk. This event took place in the world's busiest waterway, nevertheless the Master's Night Orders make two references to the forthcoming Bay of Biscay crossing but only a vague reference to traffic with an instruction to ‘always comply with the Colreg' (sic). Is there any time a Master does not want his navigators to comply with the collision regulations? The MAIB rightly emphasises the need for navigation audits, and it is clear that intervention of some form was overdue here.
It is fortunate that the tug's makeshift gob rope held as the tug was turned through 180 degrees, since this put the tug through a high risk of girting, which has often proved fatal to tug crews when resulting in instantaneous capsize. Being towed stern first at speed until the tow line bitter end failed in the Dover Straits at night in winter must have been a harrowing experience. This officer's actions post-collision also make alarming reading. After a brief comment to Dover Coastguard (in response to their request for a situation report) explaining that ‘that the tug was not showing any signal', and a cursory reduction in speed, an increase to 17 knots without checking for damage, offering assistance, contacting the coastguard or even informing the Master was an irresponsible and shameful act.
There are criticisms and observations of navigation lights, none of which relieves the officer of the watch of the overtaking vessel of his responsibility to keep a safe lookout.

For those on board Watkins' managed boats, please ensure that all deck officers and crewmembers involved in watchkeeping 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. We would welcome any feedback of course, and would be pleased to circulate any comments.

* Guidelines for the use of AIS Resolution A.917 (22) 39