Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Watchman asleep as ship grounded

The Antari - pic courtesy Marine Accident Investigation Branch
The Antari ran aground just north of Larne, County Antrim

A cargo ship ran aground on the County Antrim coast after the watchkeeper fell asleep in his seat last June, an accident investigation report has said.

The Antari was on its way from Corpach, Scotland to Belgium, but grounded on a gently sloping beach north of Larne.

There was no dedicated lookout on duty either as the vessel, carrying 2,360 tonnes of scrap metal, sailed on.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch criticised the six hours on, six hours off watchkeeping regime.

"As has been demonstrated in many previous accidents, such a routine on vessels engaged in near coastal trade poses a serious risk of cumulative fatigue," the report said.

There was no lookout on the bridge throughout the night and the watch alarm had not been switched on - safety requirements which should have been routinely applied.

It was a moonless night and the sea was calm with a slightly westerly swell.

Frank Healy took this picture of the Antari after it had run aground

The officer fell asleep in his chair on the starboard side of the wheelhouse, in front of one of the radar sets.

He was still asleep over when the ship grounded at 0321 BST on the beach close to the road at St Drumnagreagh Port between Larne and Glenarm on 28 June.

Coastguards in Belfast were alerted by a passing motorist.

It was not until 0612 BST that the 2,466 tonne ship, almost 90 metres in length, managed to be refloated.

Over 70% of the bottom of the hull was damaged and repairs involved 25 tonnes of new steelwork.

The unnamed master and the sleeping chief officer both held Russian certificates of competency.

With five other members of crew on board at the time, both worked as watchkeepers.

But, according to records on some days during May and June last year they were not achieving the hours of rest necessary to meet the proper requirements.

"From the number of accidents that have occurred from lone officers falling asleep on watch at night, it is possible to extrapolate that there are very many other unreported occasions that have not resulted in accident, of ships travelling in UK waters with only one awake onboard.

"It can only be a matter of time before these "unguided missiles" cause a catastrophic accident," the report said.

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