The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published a report into the grounding of cargo vessel Fri Ocean on the night of 14 June 2013, just to the south of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. While the incident is located within the commercial sector, it provides essential lessons that should be observed by any superyacht crew with navigational duties.

Credit: Alexis Andrews

The investigation conducted by MAIB identified that the second officer of the vessel, who was alone on watch, fell asleep, largely through lack of stimulation possibly by exacerbated by fatigue, shortly after making a course alteration. None of the alarms fitted to the GPS and ECS were loud enough to wake the sleeping officer, and a bridge navigational watch alarm system (BNWAS) that could have alerted the crew to the second officer sleeping was probably not in use.

Commenting on the report, Adrian McCourt , managing director of Watkins Superyachts, believes that there are a number of synergies with the current standards on board large yachts. "I have long accepted with sadness that designers of consolidated bridge systems and interior designers have won the battle to provide comfortable seats for watchkeepers," McCourt explains. "As a young watchkeeper, I would have fallen asleep myself, had it not been de rigueur to remain on one’s feet on watch, and the penalty for sitting in the pilot’s chair would have been severe."

"This unfortunate young man was able to navigate entirely from his seated position and, as the report states, ‘lacked essential stimulation and movement for long periods’," continues McCourt. "This is unusual for MAIB, but indicative that the reader should draw their own conclusions. The words ‘conflicting evidence’ appear more than once, particularly when establishing if a lookout had been posted. The vessel was equipped with BWNAS but, again, ‘conflicting evidence’. It can only be a matter of speculation that it might have been switched off."

The report also concludes that; "While ergonomically efficient, the bridge design encouraged the second officer to sit down which increased the potential for him to fall asleep. The lack of lookout removed a valuable control measure in that his interaction with the second officer might have prevented the latter from falling asleep. Additionally, if a lookout had been present on the bridge, he would have been in a position to immediately wake the second officer.

The full report of the accident published by MAIB can be found here.