MAIB: Cemfjord Sinking Could Have Been Avoided

Cyprus registered cement carrier, which capsized on January 2, 2015 in violent sea conditions, was a “fatal hazard that was predictable and could have been avoided,” according to an investigation report by UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).

The 1984-built Cemfjord sank in the Pentland Firth, Scotland, with eight crewmembers on board while it was on its way from Aalborg, Denmark, to the UK port of Runcorn.

“The decision to enter the Pentland Firth, rather than seek shelter, was almost certainly a result of poor passage planning, an underestimation of the severity of the conditions and perceived or actual commercial pressure to press ahead with the voyage,” Steve Clinch, The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, said.

MAIB said that it is likely that Cemfjord’s stability condition did not meet the required criteria making the vessel more vulnerable to capsize.

Furthermore, the investigation revealed that Cemfjord was at sea with significant safety shortcomings and that there is no evidence that any consideration was given to delaying departure until these problems were fixed. Clinch said that “Cemfjord was only at sea because of Flag State approved exemptions from safety regulations,” although this was not a causal factor of the accident. 

“This tragic accident is a stark reminder of the hazards faced by mariners at sea and the factors that can influence decision making in such treacherous circumstances,” Clinch said.

The ship’s manager, Hamburg-based Brise Schiffahrt, said that no distress call was received from the vessel’s crew which consisted of seven Polish seafarers and one Filipino mariner.

“The rapid nature of the capsize denied the crew an opportunity to issue a distress message or the chance to conduct a controlled abandonment of the vessel,” Clinch said.

MAIB has made a series of safety recommendations to the vessel’s managers, Flag State and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency intended to improve the safety management of cement carriers and also review the safety arrangements in the Pentland Firth.

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