The general cargo ship Ruyter ran aground on the north shore of Rathlin Island on October 10, 2017 after its master left the bridge unattended, a report from UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) showed.
The master of the Netherlands-registered ship had been consuming alcohol before taking over the watch, contrary to the company’s policy. The chief officer had previously been concerned over the master’s regular excessive consumption of alcohol, but at the watch handover had been satisfied that the master was fit to take the watch.
After taking over the watch, the master adjusted the autopilot to steer 185° to avoid the north-west bound ship Shannon Fisher. Soon after, he again adjusted the autopilot to steer a south-easterly course.
At 2105, Ruyter’s master set the autopilot to steer 145°. The ship then maintained this heading until about 2311, when it ran aground on the north shore of Rathlin Island.
The chief officer, who had been woken up by the noise and vibration of the vessel grounding, was on his way to the bridge when he met the second officer, who had also been woken. They reached the bridge together to find it deserted. There were numerous alarms sounding, including the bilge alarm for the bow thruster space.
MAIB’s investigation found that Ruyter grounded because no action had been taken to correct a deviation from the ship’s planned track. The master, who was the sole watchkeeper, had left the bridge, and the bridge navigational watch alarm system, which could have alerted the chief officer to the fact that the bridge was unmanned, had been switched off.
Ruyter’s bow shell plating and frames were damaged by the grounding, which resulted in flooding of the bow thruster space and forward voids. Only hours after the incident, the vessel was refloated without assistance and, after inspection at Carlingford Lough, proceeded to Belfast for temporary repairs.
The ship’s manager, VD Innovation BV, has since taken action, including the introduction of random alcohol testing and the empowerment of its crews to alert any concerns they may have to the company.
Ruyter was on passage from Skagen, Denmark, to Warrenpoint, UK with a cargo of sawn timber.