Findings of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)'S Inquiry into the Collision between Anl Indonesia and Rss Courageous
Background of Incident
The collision between ANL Indonesia and RSS Courageous occurred at about 2335hrs on 3 Jan 03 off Horsburgh Lighthouse within Singapore waters. At the time of the incident, ANL Indonesia was enroute from Port Klang to Busan, South Korea. RSS Courageous was conducting its regular patrol off the Horsburgh Lighthouse area.
ANL Indonesia sustained superficial damage to its bow area and there was no injury to its crew of 23 or any oil pollution from the vessel. RSS Courageous sustained severe damage. Part of the after section was sheared off and sank. Of the 44 crew onboard, eight were injured and four were reported missing. The bodies of three missing crewmembers were subsequently recovered. The search and rescue operation for the fourth crewmember was called off on 13 January 2003.
Purpose of MPA's Inquiry
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) launched an inquiry into the incident on 4 Jan 2003. The inquiry sought to ascertain the causes of the incident.
A team of five MPA investigators was appointed to conduct the Inquiry. The investigators are, Captain I G Sangameswar, Captain Sunil Kumar Thapliyal, Captain Foong Yee Kuan, Captain Mohamed Harun Ja'affar and Mr Zulfiqur Husain. Their CVs are attached.
The investigators interviewed the officers and crew manning the bridge of both vessels at the time of collision as well as those who could contribute information relevant to the incident. The investigators also examined the charts used by both vessels, log books, bridge notebooks (such as the Navigator's Notebook), engine room alarm printouts, radar recordings including those of the MPA's Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS), Voyage Management System records of the container ship, Ship Control Monitoring and Management System records of the navy ship, and avigational data records. This information was used to help re-construct the incident and analyse the causes of the incident.
Description of Vessels
ANL Indonesia (AI), is a container ship registered in the Netherlands. It was built in Korea and delivered in March 1996. Its gross tonnage is 51,938. It has a length of 293.5 metres and a beam (width) of 32.20 metres. The container ship has a top speed of 24.8 knots.
At the time of the incident, five crewmembers were on the bridge of the container ship. They were the master, the officer-of-the-watch, an able-bodied seafarer who was the lookout and steersman, a trainee cadet, and a duty engineer officer monitoring machinery spaces.
RSS Courageous (RC) is a "Fearless Class" anti-submarine patrol vessel commissioned by the Singapore Navy in 1996. It is 57.84 metres long and displaces about 452 tonnes. RC has a top speed in excess of 20 knots. The ship has a twin water jet propulsion system, which allows it to manoeuvre with ease and to operate in shallow waters.
At the time of the collision, the naval ship had nine crewmembers on the bridge. They were the officer-of-the-watch (OOW), a trainee officer-of-the-watch, a petty officer-of-the-watch, a radar plotter, a helmsman, a trainee helmsman, a lookout, a trainee lookout, and a duty technician. In the events leading up to the collision, the trainee OOW had control of the ship under the supervision of the OOW.
Sequence of Events
The collision between the AI and RC took place in the waters off Horsburgh Lighthouse. Below is a summarised account of the events leading to the collision.
At about 2320 hours on 3 Jan 2003, both RC and AI were proceeding in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS)1 on a northeasterly course in waters off Horsburgh Lighthouse. RC was travelling on a course of about 050° at a speed of 9 knots along the general direction of traffic flow for that lane. AI was proceeding along a course of 051° at about 23 knots in the same eastbound traffic lane. While travelling in this direction, AI saw two vessels (one of which was later identified as RC) ahead of itself proceeding northeast in the same eastbound lane. AI tracked both ships on its radar.
At about 2325 hours, RC made a "U-turn" and steadied on a south-westerly course of about 235°. It then proceeded in the eastbound traffic lane of the TSS against the general direction of traffic flow. This alteration of course by RC was also observed by AI. AI assessed that RC was a small craft or a fishing vessel on a nearly reciprocal course and that RC would pass safely on its port side.
At about 2330 hours, RC altered course to port by 20º from 235° to 215º with the intention of keeping close to Horsburgh Lighthouse. This brought RC on a collision course towards AI. At this juncture, the distance from AI to RC was about 1.7 nautical miles (about 3km). Those on the bridge of RC could now see both the port and starboard sidelights of AI, and RC's radar plotter reported that AI and RC were expected to pass each other at less than 3 cables (0.3 nautical miles or 500 metres).
Between 2331 hours and 2333 hours, RC made two further alterations of course to port from 215º to 210º (5º change), and from 210º to 200º (10º change).
By this time, AI had passed Horsburgh Lighthouse on its starboard side and at about 2333 hours, AI made an alteration of course to starboard to give RC a wider berth on its port side, i.e. to increase the passing distance between both ships.
A little later after 2333 hours, while AI was altering to starboard, the bridge team on AI saw the starboard sidelight of RC. This indicated that RC had altered to port. AI then made a further alteration to starboard.
At about 2334 hours, RC made an alteration of course to port from 200º to steer 190°, and increased speed to about 11 to 12 knots. By then the distance between AI and RC had reduced to about 0.8 nautical mile (1.4km). AI sounded a prolonged blast to alert RC.
Very shortly after, at about 2335 hours, RC made a helm order of "hard-a-port" and put its engines to full throttle.
The two vessels collided a little after 2335 hours.
The bow of AI collided with the starboard quarter of RC at the after section around compartments number 1 and 2. Upon impact, RC swung to its starboard and grazed along the starboard side of AI for about 100 metres before separating from it. RC sustained severe damage to its after compartments number 1 and 2. An after section broke off and sank. Its mast also collapsed and the communication systems were rendered unusable. RC's compartment 3 was also flooded and its afterdeck was on fire. The Commanding Officer (CO) came to the bridge to take charge. RC contacted the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) HQ to request for immediate assistance and also fired distress flares. After a head count onboard, RC found that four of its female crewmembers could not be accounted for and that eight of its crewmembers had sustained injuries. The uninjured crewmembers were organised to contain the fire and to control the flooding in the auxiliary engine room compartment. The fire was extinguished shortly.
Meanwhile, AI had communicated with the MPA's VTIS at about 2337 hours on the collision and RC's need for assistance. It also turned back to assist RC. At about 0050 hours on 4 Jan 2003, the PCG craft arrived at the scene and evacuated the crew of RC. AI proceeded to Singapore port and anchored at about 0658 hours on 4 Jan 2003. RC was towed to the Changi Naval Base at about 0830 hours on 4 Jan 2003.
Findings of the Inquiry
Equipment and Machinery
The safety certificates of AI were in order, and its machinery and equipment were in good working order. RC was well maintained and all its equipment, including key navigational equipment, engines and steering gear, were in good working condition. Both vessels also possessed and used up-to-date nautical charts.
Weather and Tidal Conditions
The weather and tidal conditions at the time of the collision were good. According to the Meteorological Services, there were winds of 10-15 knots, with slight to moderate seas of between 1.5 to 2 metre swells and no rain. Visibility was more than 10 km (about 6 nautical miles).
Movement of Other Ships in the Vicinity
Vessel traffic in the Horsburgh Lighthouse area was normal at the time of the incident. Vessel movements of other ships in the vicinity were also normal.
AI was adequately manned according to the ship's safe manning document issued by the Netherlands maritime administration. The ship also maintained a watch and rest period log, and the ship's crew complied with rest periods as prescribed in the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 as amended in 1995 (STCW95). The officers on AI were issued with valid Certificates of Competency by the Netherlands.
RC was operating within its operational manning limits. According to RSN, RC was allowed to carry more than 44 crewmembers and it was not overloaded at the time of the incident. Its crewmembers had had adequate rest before assuming their duties. Except for the trainees, the officers and specialists of RC had the necessary RSN certificates. In particular, the officers carrying out Officer-of-the-Watch (OOW) duties had Bridge Watchkeeping certificates issued by RSN, and had studied the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (Collision Regulations). At the time of the collision, the trainee OOW had the control of the ship under the supervision of the OOW. The CO was resting in his cabin and was not present on the bridge.
None of the bridge crew on either vessel was under the influence of alcohol.
The Master on board AI altered course to starboard to avoid RC. This was in accordance to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, also known as the Collision Regulations2.
At the time of the incident, RC was under the control of the trainee OOW. The trainee OOW had ordered a few alterations of course to port after RC had made a "U-turn" in the eastbound lane. The initial alteration was to keep RC closer to Horsburgh Lighthouse and the subsequent alterations were evasive manoeuvres to avoid AI. The OOW had concurred with all the trainee OOW's instructions despite knowing that the trainee's actions to alter course to port were contravening the Collision Regulations and that AI was approaching RC on a reciprocal course.
The OOW also made a wrong assessment that AI would maintain its course and speed and that RC would cross safely ahead of AI by altering its course to port.
The collision between AI and RC was caused by errors of judgement in assessing the situation and the wrongful application of the Collision Regulations on the part of RC. Although the trainee OOW had the "control of the ship", the trainee was at all times under the OOW's supervision. According to RSN regulations, the OOW of RC was in charge of the watch and not the trainee OOW. As such, the OOW was fully responsible for the safe navigation of RC.
By not intervening, the OOW had shown that he was either not fully aware of the situation around him or had wrongly agreed with the actions and instructions given by the trainee OOW. Thus, the OOW of RC had either failed to keep a proper watch or had made similar errors of judgement as the trainee OOW.
When RC stayed in the eastbound lane after making a "U" turn from its original course of 050°, this was an operational decision that was meant to keep RC closer to Horsburgh Lighthouse. In itself, this would not have led to the collision if RC had maintained its course and speed. It was the following errors of judgement that led to the collision.
a. RC's initial alteration of course to port which was carried out in order for the vessel to keep closer to Horsburgh Lighthouse but which resulted in a risk of collision with AI;
b. RC's decision to cross the bow of AI and the assumption that AI would not alter its course; and
c. RC's subsequent succession of small alterations of course to port which negated the actions taken by AI.
The collision was not caused by any of the following factors:
a. Failure of machinery or navigational equipment on either ship
b. Movement of other ships in the vicinity
c. Insufficiency or fatigue of crew on the bridge of both ships
d. Weather and tidal conditions
e. Failure of any aids to navigation in the vicinity
Singapore is an extremely busy port used by a large number of commercial vessels. The Collision Regulations provides a consistent set of rules to ensure the safe handling and navigation of vessels. In view of the heavy commercial traffic in our waters, all naval and state vessels should comply with these Regulations. In the event that the operational requirements of naval and state vessels necessitate a deviation from these Regulations, they must however take necessary and appropriate measures to ensure the safety of normal commercial traffic.
End of Release.
1The TSS off Horsburgh has two lanes - an eastbound lane (heading to the South China Sea) and a westbound lane (heading to the Malacca Straits). Traffic in the eastbound lane generally moves in a northeast direction while traffic in the westbound lane moves in a southwesterly direction.
2Rule 14(a) of Collision Regulations states that "when two power-driven vessels are meeting on a reciprocal or nearly reciprocal course so as to involve risk of collision, each shall alter her course to starboard so that they pass each other on the port side of the other."