The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has issued an accident investigation report on the collision between the general cargo vessel Scot Carrier and the split hopper barge Karin Høj, resulting in the capsize of the barge with two fatalities in the Bornholmsgat traffic separation scheme, Sweden on 13 December 2021.

The collision took place on 13 December 2021, when the UK registered general cargo ship Scot Carrier and the Denmark registered split hopper barge Karin Høj collided in the precautionary area adjacent to the Bornholmsgat traffic separation scheme, Sweden.

As a result of the collision, Karin Høj capsized and its two crew lost their lives.

According to the report, neither watchkeeper on the two vessels reacted to the developing situation, or took action in time to prevent a collision. The report further finds that Scot Carrier’s watchkeeper changed course without determining that it was safe to do so. No lookouts were posted on either vessel and Scot Carrier’s watchkeeper was distracted by the use of a personal tablet computer.

It is also found that Scot Carrier’s watchkeeper may have been influenced by alcohol.

Following the accident both ship operators have taken action to prevent a recurrence, as MAIB reports.

The MAIB has issued recommendations to the Scot Carrier’s ship management company to review the results of its navigational audits to determine additional training and instruction needs.

Karin Høj’s owners have been recommended to actively monitor its crewing levels so that they are adequately manned at all times.

Additionally, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been recommended to advise the shipping industry that the posting of a lookout in addition to a bridge watchkeeper during the hours of darkness and restricted visibility is an absolute requirement in UK waters and on UK ships, and to clarify this in its publications.

This report also highlights the dangers of distraction from watchkeeping duties. While shipping companies may have procedures to address distraction, seafarers are also responsible for acting professionally, MAIB notes, adding that watchkeeping is a safety critical task.

It is also recommended shipping companies to empower their crews to make the right decisions, highlighting the impact that distraction has on task performance, and have effective methods of ensuring that an additional lookout is posted at night and in poor visibility.

“International requirements are clear that posting an additional person on the bridge as a dedicated lookout is vital to safe navigation. However, this investigation is one of many that have found that the watchkeepers were alone on the bridge at night,” said Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, Andrew Moll OBE.

The Chief Inspector adds that the report makes a recommendation to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to clarify to the shipping industry that posting an additional lookout at night and in restricted visibility is a regulatory requirement on UK ships, and all ships in UK waters.