M2019-01 Running aground of M/S Skarven (FIN) to the west of Degerby on 12 April 2019

The passenger-car ferry M/S Skarven, operating the route between Degerby in Föglö and Svinö in Lumparland, Åland islands, lost its maneuverability in the narrow passage of Ekholmssund on Friday, 12 April 2019. The vessel drifted from the fairway, collided with the radar mark of the fairway and then drifted aground at 7.35. No personal injuries were caused by this accident. A small amount of corrosion resistant oil leaked into the sea from beneath the vessel’s rubbing strake. The bottom of the vessel was ruptured at a length around 9.5 meters and width around one meter.

The loss of maneuverability was caused by a disruption in the signal of the angle sensor of the azimuth thruster foremost in the vessel’s direction of travel. As a result, the azimuth thruster remained turned to the right. The vessel’s equipment monitoring system gave an alert of a malfunction in the azimuth thruster’s control system with a 30-second delay. The bridge crew did not notice the alert before the collision, because on the bridge, the alert was only displayed as a line of text on the equipment monitoring system’s display behind the back of the helmsman. There was no audible alarm on the bridge.

The rescue operations after the accident went smoothly. All passengers were evacuated from the vessel by 8.58.

M/S Skarven’s systems were new to the shipbuilding yard. This affected the quality of the electrical work of the vessel’s control system, for example. Deficiencies in cabling and groundings that made the system susceptible to disruptions were detected. When the vessel began operations in 2010, technical failures were manifested in its systems several times. The control system alerts were difficult to investigate, because several alerts had been combined into group alerts. Because the control system alerts were not found to have an effect on the vessel’s operation, the alert delays were increased from 2 seconds to 30 seconds. Change in the delay eliminated the alerts and the underlying defect was not investigated.

The management of the vessel was transferred to a shipping management company in October 2013. At the same time, the vessel’s crew and maintenance system were changed. Information on the changes to the control system’s alert delays was not relayed to the shipping management company at that time. Neither did the issue come up during the vessel’s acceptance inspection carried out before the change of manager. No agreement on the transfer of the maintenance history and fault information to the new manager was made in the traffic operation agreement.

Due to the ergonomics on the vessel’s bridge, it was practically impossible after a malfunction in the control system for the helmsman to detect and identify the cause of a steering problem and react immediately to it. The monitoring devices of the control system were located in such a way that monitoring them was difficult.

The Regional State Administrative Agency had carried out labor protection inspections on the vessel. The inspections mainly concentrated on an assessment of the condition of the crew cabins and personnel rooms. The deficiencies in the bridge ergonomics were not detected or identified during these inspections.

The vessel had been built in accordance with the rules of a classification society (Lloyd’s Register). The quality problems in the vessel’s electrical installations were not detected by the inspections carried out during the building phase. Also, the risks involved with monitoring devices of propulsion system were not identified.

The investigation revealed that there are no binding regulations on the disclosure of technical information related to the maintenance history of vessels when the ownership or management of the vessel changes. The investigation also revealed that the safety impacts of bridge ergonomics are not systematically examined during surveys carried out by the authorities. This allows the deficiencies in the technical implementations of the vessels to remain unidentified.

In order to avoid similar accidents in the future, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that

● the Government of the Province of Åland, as the instance responsible for the commuter ferry traffic in the province and the owner of the commuter ferries, create procedures for ensuring the transfer of fault, change and maintenance history information affecting the safe operation of vessels when their crew or ship manager changes.

● the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency take action to develop regulations concerning the transfer of fault, change and maintenance history information affecting the safe use of vessels when the vessel’s ownership or ship manager changes.

● Lloyd’s Register ensure that the monitoring system of a vessel is implemented in such a manner that the watch personnel receive immediate and clearly identified information on malfunctions in critical systems.

● the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency provide instructions for the assessment of the functionality of the bridge ergonomics of vessels and the usability of the equipment during vessel surveys.

M2019-01 Investigation report (in Finnish) (pdf, 4.8 Mt)

Published 1.4.2020