Crunching Crane Jibs and Invisible Trawlers

Maritime New Zealand’s December issue of Look Out (download here) is as always, full of maritime accident reports and hair-raising close calls with lessons worth learning. We noted two in particular:

A containership crane jib collapsed without warning and fell onto the wharf close to several workers. Fortunately no-one was injured. Exactly what caused the collapse remains a mystery. The crane topping lift wire rope had parted, yet undamaged parts of the rope appeared to be in condition, it was the correct spec and appropriate maintenance and inspection had been carried out

A microscope revealed that the parting was caused by severe abrasive wear, mainly of the crown wires of the outer strands and there was considerable wear on the wires below the surface of outer strands  and on inner core strand wires.

So watch out even cranes in apparently good condition can fail without warning.

What is also worrying is that this particular crane design failed to unsafe – the failure of a single wire rope results in a major accident.

In a second incident a 60,000 tonnes car carrier came within 20 metres of a fishing trawler in Force 7 winds and 3 metres waves.

The skipper of the bright orange, highly visible trawler saw the car carrier in his 12 mile radar about five miles out bearing almost directly astern and was obviously overtaking. He wnt below to check the engine and cll the other two crewmen to pull in the nets. Returning to the wheelhouse he noticed the carrier was two or three miles astern, he wasn’t worried, it had happened before and he assumed someone on the carrier was keeping a proper lookout. Then his cellphone rang and he answered it for a few minutes.

When he finished his cellphone chat he turned around to find the carrier just 200 to 300 metres away. This got his immediate attention but by the time he’d grabbed his VHF Radio the carrier was roaring past starboard with about 20 metres.

There is no reference in the report regarding the status of the skipper’s underpants at this point.

As it happened, the carrier’s third officer was alone on the bridge, wasn’t looking ahead with binoculars and had set the radar anti-sea clutter in a way that he thought would differentiate between false and real targets but it didn’t spot the trawler and the automatic target acquisition wasn’t being used. The carrier was on automatic steering. He only saw the trawler when it was around 300 metres away.

There’s no reference in the report to the state of his underpants at that moment, either.

The lesson: Complacency is dangerous, don’t just assume that another vessel will do what you expect it to do.

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