The Danish container ship Svendborg Maersk departed from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The ship was bound for the Suez Canal, and subsequently the Far East. The master expected to encounter adverse weather conditions on the route. However, the forecast did not give rise to concern.
The following day, as the ship had left the English Channel, the weather conditions started deteriorating. In the afternoon, the ship suddenly and without warning rolled to extreme angles and a large number of containers fell over board.
In the early evening, the ship again suddenly rolled violently, reaching an extreme angle of roll of 41° to port. Again a large number of containers were lost over board and, now, the master considered the situation to threaten the safety of the ship. The master sounded the general alarm to muster the crew members. Later in the evening he assessed that the weather no longer posed an immediate danger to the ship.
The accident happened when Svendborg Maersk, on two separate occasions, encountered extremities in an adverse weather situation in the northern part of the Bay of Biscay. The extremities caused sudden heavy rolling of the ship that led to the loss of 517 cargo containers and dam-age to approximately 250 cargo containers.
The report states that a number of factors coincided and caused the incidents and subsequent consequences.
An adverse weather situation was forecasted in SPOS and the ship had prepared for this. However, the weather as a combination of dynamic forces and the extremities encountered by Svendborg Maersk was not expected by the master and crew members, according to the report.
It was inherently challenging, beforehand, by the means available, to gain a mental overview depicting the exact weather and wave situation the ship encountered during the incidents, including the ship’s motional behaviour, as many variables were involved.
The master’s decision-making prior to the heavy weather navigation was largely reliant on his personal experience with heavy weather and the ship he commanded, says in the report.
Decision-making was challenged during uncertain and dynamic conditions with limited data at hand, or a limited recognition of their meaning in combination with the generic SMS procedures available, that will inherently have a deviance in work as described and how work is carried out, which provided poor decision-making support for the master. The quality of the master’s decisions would therefore only be obvious afterwards, when the outcome was known, DMAIB concludes in the report.