Over reliance on an electronic chart, miscommunication and an outdated navigational chart were all factors in a cruise ship damaging a terminal pier last year near Sitka, Alaska, (pictured) the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a report.
The ‘Radiance of the Seas’ was berthing at the Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal on 9th May, 2022, when it struck and damaged a mooring dolphin.
She sustained a minor hull indentation, while the mooring dolphin sustained damage to three of the four pilings, which supported it.
There were no reported injuries to the 1,375 pax, 782 crew or the four pilots on board.
The contact resulted in $2.1 mill in damages to the pier and impacted cruise ship traffic to the Sitka Sound cruise terminal for the remainder of the 2022 season.
In April, 2021, the cruise terminal’s pier was extended by 395 ft, which included the addition of two mooring dolphins connected by a walkway and a 410 ft long floating berth next to the existing dolphins.
However, the terminal did not inform the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency in charge of updating US coastal nautical charts, of the extension.
NOAA had no record of the construction until NTSB investigators informed it of the pier’s extension after the contact.
At the time of the contact, the electronic navigation chart (ENC) that the cruise ship was using did not show the extended pier or added dolphins.
‘Radiance of the Seas’ crew relied heavily on the vessel’s electronic chart and information system (ECDIS) to plan and execute the docking. The Master and bridge team had other navigational technology, including radars and cameras, available to assist them with the approach to the terminal.
Even with these tools available, the crew relied solely on the ECDIS, which showed an inaccurate ENC, the report said.
While docking, the bosun and Master did not confirm the type of distances that were being communicated during the docking. The bosun was relaying accurate distances to the pier’s northernmost dolphin, but the Master incorrectly assumed the bosun was calling out how much clearance the ship would have as the stern passed the dolphin.
The NTSB determined the probable cause of the contact was the Master and bridge team’s over reliance on an electronic chart to identify the pier’s position relative to their planned rotation location, and the Master’s misunderstanding of the clearance distances to the pier being called by the crew member on the stern while the vessel was turning.
Contributing to the situation was the terminal not reporting the extension of the pier into the waterway to the appropriate hydrographic authority in order to update the relevant navigational chart.
NTSB investigators cited two lessons learned as a result of the investigation – voyage planning and reporting port or terminal modifications.
“Proper voyage planning includes developing a complete plan for every phase of the voyage—from the vessel’s starting port to its end port (berth to berth), including leaving the dock and mooring,” the report said.
“Reference points for manoeuvring should be identified, measured precisely, and reported clearly.
“Vessel bridge teams should also ensure that they have the most up-to-date data before getting underway and consult with the local pilot(s) on the accuracy of navigation charts to ensure depictions of ports and/or terminals are correct.
“Ports and terminals should immediately report significant modifications to port or terminal configurations to the appropriate hydrographic authority (for example, NOAA) so that charts can be updated and the changes made readily available to vessel owners, operators, and crews/bridge teams,” the report said.
Marine Investigation Report 23-10 is available online.