Swedish Accident Investigation Board: ”Shifting of cargo sank Finnbirch”

Poorly lashed cargo can expose crew and passengers to mortal danger. The Finnbirch disaster, which resulted in two deaths, was probably caused by unsecured goods.
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Poorly lashed cargo can expose crew and passengers to mortal danger. The Finnbirch disaster, which resulted in two deaths, was probably caused by unsecured goods.

On 1 November 2006 there was a storm in the southern Baltic. The Swedish registered ro-ro ship ”Finnbirch” left Helsinki, bound for Århus in Denmark. She never reached her destination. After having problems in the appalling weather conditions and remaining heeled over for more than four hours, she sank in the waters between Öland and Gotland.
Of the fourteen-man crew, two died.
An accident inquiry is underway at the Swedish Accident Investigation Board, and all the evidence indicates that the outcome was caused by movements on the cargo deck.
– We are working on the theory that there was a massive shift of cargo and many of the records will be concerned with the load, says Ylva Bexell, head of the investigation.
Vinca Gorthon sank in the same way
The investigation is not yet completed and Ylva Bexell does not want to go into details for that reason. But she says that the accident on the ”Vinca Gorthon” in 1988 probably followed a similar sequence of events. In that case, too, it was a ro-ro ship sailing under a Swedish flag. The cargo was mainly trucks loaded with rolls of paper standing on end.
When the ship was hit by hard weather in the North Sea the rolls of paper were torn loose. ”Vinca” started to heel over more and more, and just over 24 hours later she started to slowly disappear into the depths. By then the crew had been evacuated.
Experts in agreement
Karl-Arne Johansson is in charge of work environment at Seko Seafarers and a member of the Swedish Marine Work Environment Board, SAN. He participated in an information meeting about the investigation of the ”Finnbirch” in December last year, arranged by the Swedish Accident Investigation Board, and explains that the lecturers’ opinions of what had happened were unanimous.
– The experts were agreed that badly lashed cargo and hard weather caused the accident, and that the outcome would have been different had the cargo been better secured.
”Great ignorance”
It appears that the international rules on securing loads were not followed.
– There seems to have been great ignorance, onboard and ashore, about how cargo should be secured. Quite simply, they did not know how the load should have been lashed, says Karl-Arne Johansson.
The final report on the ”Finnbirch” has been delayed.  Its completion date is uncertain.
– We were forced to deal with another matter meanwhile, but I hope that it will be completed before the summer, says Ylva Bexell.
Linda Sundgren

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