|B2/2004M Pusher-Barge Combination HERAKLES-BULK, Dangerous Situation and Sinking in Bothnian Sea 2.–3. of March, 2004||Text version|
On 2nd of March at 3:51 PM the ship owner Ab Alfons Håkans Oy called Turku MRCC and stated that the pusher-barge combination HERAKLES-BULK was in trouble at the Åland Sea about 20 sea miles north from the lighthouse Märket. The combination had left Oxelösund, Sweden and was on the way to Kvarken. The Master had informed the ship owner about freezing conditions and that the combination was unable to advance in ambient sea and wave conditions. Rough seas threw water into the barges cargo space and later the captain suspected that the combination would capsize.
MRCC Turku began to handle the case as an emergency situation. The crew was rescued in two groups, the first group left the vessel with a finnish helicopter and the rest of the crew were evacuated with one finnish and one swedish helicopter on 3rd of March at 00:30 AM. Shortly after evacuation the combination quickly sank on the shallows of the Grundkallen lighthouse and the barge broke down into two parts. Most of the fuel as well as lubrication oil in the combination leaked into the sea.
The failure of both main engines led to the drifting on to the shallows and to the distruction of the vessel. Lack of main engine power, according to the investication board, resulted from severe weather conditions, which had a weakening influence on the working conditions of both main engines.
The decision made to continue to sail into the Bothnian Sea in ambient and forecasted weather conditions was a result of a weak structure of decision support systems, incomplete quidance, incompetent BRM practices and the mental agility
The research showed, that the operation practices of the vessel and the ship owner did not in all parts correspond the documented guide lines of the ship owner, nor the structure of the safety management system, which should promote the elimination of operational risks.
The rescue authorities acted creditably, although the vessel did not send internationally agreed distress code or call. The rescue gear of the vessel combination was mainly useless in ambient conditions, but the floating suits turned out to be irreplaceable.
The board recommends, that the authorities and surveyors should especially pay attention on the functionality of the coupling system and rescue gear in harsh weather conditions. Furthermore, the board recommends that the ship owner more closely specifies its safety management systems route planning, abnormal situation reporting and bridge resource management chapters.