Tugboat accidents investigated by the Swedish Accident Investigation Board

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Asian Breeze: Asian Breeze was heading into Malmö Port with a pilot and a tugboat. The crew discovered that the bow propeller was not operating properly, so the master ordered two tugs. The pilot who was going to assist Asian Breeze did not receive any information about the bow propeller being out of action, but thought the extra tug was there because there were high winds. When the first tug, Bonden, was connecting to the ship the pilot thought that the ships were getting too close to the port entrance and stopped the tow-in. Bonden had to effect an emergency release of the tow line because it had fastened in the carrier on the side of the tug. During the next attempt at connection, communications between the ship and Bonden did not function. The master on Bonden misjudged the speed and course of Asian Breeze, which caused the ship to ram Bonden on the stern. The tug’s propeller shaft was bent, the engine stopped immediately and the ship started to drift. Asian Breeze had a hole in the foreship.

The report takes up the problem of poor communication and the lack of standardised expressions in the context of connecting, manoeuvring and other procedures. This resulted in recommendations made to the Swedish Transport Agency, the Swedish Maritime Administration and the tugboat sector to develop standardised expressions and procedures for cooperation between ships, tugs and any external parties involved.

Assistance of a departing ship: Two tugboats had towed a ship away from the quayside and had turned it around. Tug 2 was disconnected and shortly thereafter, tug 1 was ordered to do the same. The towline slackened and the crew of the assisted ship prepared to disconnect it. At that moment, the ship unexpectedly started to move forward. The propeller current hit the side of tug 1, which was pushed away forcefully and listed about 35 degrees. The towline snapped in the centre eye of the ship and hit the tugboat with a huge force. The two deckmen quickly realised what was happening and moved rapidly from the immediate danger zone. There were no injuries to personnel or damage to equipment, other than the towline itself. It was emphasized afterwards in communications between the ship and tug 1 how vital it is to never start manoeuvring the ship without receiving clearance from all tugboats involved and the crew.

Assistance of arriving ship: In connection with the assistance of an arriving ship to the quayside, a tugboat was ordered to connect to the centre stern and brake the vessel towards the quayside. When the tugboat was in position at six o’clock and was braking the ship made a forward manoeuvre, causing a strong propeller current that immediately turned the tugboat sharply towards starboard, despite the use of the rudder and fore propeller to counter the rotation. The tugboat swung heavily to starboard and water came up on the main deck. Since the rudder and fore propeller had no counter-effect on the turn to starboard and the strong heeling, the emergency release for the tow hook was operated but nothing happened. After a short while, however, the tugboat straightened up and was able to regain its former position and direction. After the master checked in the rear camera, he saw that the eye on the towline has become caught behind the bolt that the tow hook rotates around when it is released, resulting in the hook not being released correctly.

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