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AN investigation into the grounding of a general cargo ship off the coast of Denmark has reinforced the the importance of effective safeguards on vessels.

According to the Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board, the Netherlands-registered ship Beaumaiden ran aground while sailing from Belgium to Estonia in October last year.

Investigators found the accident occurred after the master had been drinking while on watch, leaving the bridge and falling asleep in his cabin.

With no one on the bridge, the ship continued its course at 10 knots and ran aground four hours later. The ship sustained minor damage and no crewmembers were injured.

In an investigative report published this month, DMAIB found the master’s alcohol consumption was a casual factor in the grounding but was not the cause of the accident.

The investigation identified other safety issues relating to navigational watchkeeping on Beaumaiden, which contributed to its grounding.

It aimed to uncover how the master’s absence went unnoticed by other crewmembers for such a prolonged period.

The report suggests there can be several reasons for a navigational bridge to become unmanned. For example, the officer on watch can fall asleep, become ill, or lose consciousness.

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Unless safeguards are in place, any of these scenarios can have adverse consequences for the ship, as exemplified in the Beaumaiden incident.

“On Beaumaiden, those safeguards were not effective for various reasons,” DMAIB said in its report.

“The dangers of not having these safeguards in place was exacerbated by the master’s consumption of alcohol prior to and during the navigational watch,” the report said.

“Although alcohol was a casual factor in the grounding, the investigation also unveiled other problems related to the safe navigational watchkeeping on Beaumaiden, which contributed to the ship’s grounding.

The report identified several factors which came into play, including that the toilet on the bridge did not flush properly, meaning the master was compelled to leave the bridge.

The report noted it was common practice onboard to not have a lookout on the bridge during the night because the work schedule did not allow for all the duties to be performed, meaning officers on watch would be alone on the bridge.

Findings also highlighted the inconvenient location of the navigational watch alarm system, requiring the master to constantly move from his position to reset the alarm. Consequently, the alarm system had been disconnected.

According to the report, Beaumaiden’s management company Vertom Bereederungs plans to revise its drug and alcohol policy and uphold a zero-tolerance policy to alcohol onboard its ships.  

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