New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission has cited failings in the port operator in its investigation report into why the ‘Seabourn Encore’ broke away away from her berth and collided with bulk cement carrier at Timaru in February, 2017.
On 12th February, 2017, ‘Seabourn Encore’ was berthed at No 1 Wharf in PrimePort Timaru. The ship was secured to mooring bollards on the wharf using her own mooring lines.
During the day the weather changed rapidly and earlier than predicted. The wind increased in intensity and changed direction resulting in the cruise ship being pushed away from the wharf. As a result, a number of mooring bollards on the wharf progressively failed.
The resulting load on the remaining mooring lines caused them to break, and the stern of the ship swung across the harbour and collided with a bulk cement carrier that was berthing at an adjacent wharf.
Seabourn Encore’s crew were able to engage the ship’s propulsion systems in time to lessen the impact and to maintain control of the ship until the wind abated enough to re-secure the ship to its berth with the aid of a harbour pilot and tugs.
As well as the damage to the wharf, the hull of the bulk cement carrier was holed near the waterline, but the damage occurred where a water ballast tank was located so did not materially affect the ship’s stability. ‘Seabourn Encore’ sustained damage to shell plating. Nobody was injured.
The commission found that the ‘Seabourn Encore’s’ mooring lines and associated equipment were in good condition and were not factors contributing to the accident. However, the mooring bollards failed because the unique method with which each had been fastened to the wharf and/or the strength of the underlying wharf structure meant they were unable to withstand the forces put on them by the cruise ship’s mooring lines.
It was also stated that the port company PrimePort Timaru had virtually no knowledge of the safe working loads of the various mooring bollards on the wharf and that the mooring procedures for the port were not strictly followed.
The documented port company response to a predicted weather event was not strictly followed, which was a factor in neither the ship’s crew nor the port company resources being fully prepared to respond to the predicted change in weather in a timely manner. However, the prompt actions taken by the ship’s crew when the weather event occurred very likely reduced the consequences of the accident, the commission said.