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Thursday, July 19, 2007

No one saw it coming but it is "expected"?

I reported in this blog the case of oil tanker FR8 Venture last November, in which they encountered freaque waves that killed two seamen and seriously injured another as they passing through Scotland's Pentland Firth. The seamen were working on deck struggling to secure one of the ships main anchors when the ship slipped into Pentland Firth during a winter gale. According to the Scotsman and MidLothian Advertiser this morning, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) just issued their investigate report yesterday that basically concluded that the decision by the captain to leave the harbor during the storm caused the unfortunate accident as:
"The Master should have delayed the sailing so that the ship could have been secured for sea in sheltered waters.

"Having decided to leave the shelter of Scapa Flow before the foredecks were secured for sea, the Master's assessment of the position by which the crew should have been clear of the foredeck of the ship allowed little margin for error."
As the accident happened when the vessel was struck by the two large waves, the MAIB report described the details:
"No-one saw the waves approaching. The ship's bow then pitched into the deep trough between the first and second wave. Able Seaman Ravindra and Able Seaman Kharva were swept off the winch platform and forced uncontrollably aft until they came to rest under the flying bridge - a raised walkway above the main deck."
That resulted in Mr Ravindra died from multiple injuries and Mr Kharva sustained a fatal neck injury. Clearly both should have been preventable. What I find interesting is that the report suggests:
"The height of these waves would have been at least 8.6 metres, which, although higher than the waves experienced up to that point, could not be considered abnormal and should have been expected in the prevailing weather condition."
So the waves that FR8 Venture encountered were not freaque waves, but something to be expected according to MAIB. While this is not really a far fetched reckoning, it does pointing out that this is a rather fuzzy area that different inferences can be drawn with similar uncertainty. Freaque waves can happen in calm conditions. Freaque waves can also happen in storm conditions. There is not even a universal definition of what constitutes freaque or abnormal. But the report noticed that "no one saw the waves approaching" which is somehow hard to mesh with the contention that it is "expected" in my mind. Perhaps because of the uncertainties confront the case, the report has issued no safety recommendations.

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