The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published a report covering a commercial accident in March 2012, where the crew of motoryacht Battered Bull played a crucial role in demonstrating effective watchkeeping skills and response to an emergency situation. The sole objective of this report is for, "the prevention of the future accidents through the ascertainment of its causes and circumstances". The Crew Report shares the conclusions drawn from the incident in order to further educate crew on the importance of dealing with emergencies in the professional and correct manner.

Motoryacht Battered Bull. Image courtesy of MAIB.

On 10 March 2012, the bulk carrier Seagate and the refrigerated-cargo ship Timor Stream collided while transiting open waters, 24 nautical miles north of the Dominican Republic. There were no injuries, but both ships were badly damaged and there was some minor pollution.

The report describes how, “the motoryacht Battered Bull was on an almost reciprocal heading from Seagate. Timor Stream was on Battered Bull’s port bow crossing from port to starboard. Battered Bull’s chief officer identified that Seagate and Timor Stream 6.7nm apart and that action was required by Seagate, the give way vessel, to avoid a close quarters situation or collision. Battered Bull’s chief officer altered course 24 degrees to port to avoid the developing situation with both Seagate and Timor Stream.”

The MAIB report also reveals that, “Seagate’s chief officer saw Timor Stream but assumed it was an overtaking vessel which would keep clear of Seagate. The master of Timor Stream, who was alone on the bridge, was not keeping an effective lookout. Neither watchkeeper realised that the two vessels were on a collision course until less than a minute before the accident.

Image courtesy of MAIB.

"Timor Stream’s bow hit Seagate’s starboard side in the area of the accommodation block and engine room. Once the collision had taken place, Timor Stream’s master sounded the general alarm on his vessel and this was followed by Seagate’s master issuing a 'Mayday' call by VHF radio. Timor Stream’s master also issued a VHF radio 'Mayday' call and Battered Bull altered course towards the two damaged ships."

In the actions following the collision, Seagate’s chief officer is described to have climbed into the bow of the port lifeboat and attempted to disengage the lifeboat’s release hooks manually. Shortly afterwards, he fell overboard from the lifeboat, landing in the sea between the lifeboat and the ship’s side. The investigation reports that, “Seagate’s master used the VHF radio to broadcast that a man was overboard.... Battered Bull’s master manoeuvred his yacht close to the chief officer and a man-overboard recovery net was rigged over the yacht’s side. The chief officer swam, with the lifebuoy, to Battered Bull and their crewmen pulled him on board.”

Battered Bull's manoverboard recovery net. Image courtesy of MAIB.

The privately owned motoryacht Battered Bull was on passage from Gustavia, St Barts to West Palm Beach, Florida, USA. “At the time of the accident,” the report confirms, “The bridge was manned by a chief officer and a lookout. The chief officer and the lookout both saw Seagate and Timor Stream on their radar and by eye. Battered Bull’s chief officer realised, at a range of at least 10nm, that a close quarters situation was developing between his vessel and Seagate; he also realised that an alteration of course to starboard would result in a subsequent close quarters situation with Timor Stream.” The report commends the chief officer of Battered Bull as he “made an early and bold alteration of course to port to avoid any risk of collision with the other two ships. The actions were positive, made in ample time, and were fully in accordance with the COLREGS.”

The report concludes that, “the skillful and highly responsible actions of Battered Bull’s master, chief officer and crew in their reactions to the collision were very commendable. Battered Bull’s chief officer showed a thorough understanding of the navigational situation that he faced, and took the appropriate professional actions expected of a diligent watchkeeper leading an effective bridge team.”

The full report can be read here.