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Höegh Osaka: unsafe practices “the norm”, MAIB reports

Höegh Osaka: unsafe practices “the norm”, MAIB reports
Car carrier Höegh Osaka, which developed an uncontrollable list off Southampton in January 2015, fell victim to miscalculations on weight, ballast levels and centre of gravity, according to a Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report.

The Captain deliberately grounded the vessel on a sandbank in the Solent, after it developed a starboard list exceeding 40° and consequent flooding.

The vessel was stranded for several days until salvors reduced the list sufficiently to sail it into port, by which time 27% of the cargo had sustained damage, with 80 cars and trucks written off entirely.

After an investigation spanning more than a year, MAIB detailed its findings in its report, concluding “Höegh Osaka’s itinerary had changed from its routine loading rotation between three north-west European ports. The actual cargo weight and stowage were significantly different from the final cargo tally supplied to the ship.

“Ballast tank quantities were estimated on board and differed significantly from actual tank levels,” MAIB’s report continued. “Cargo unit vertical centres of gravity were routinely not allowed for in the ship’s calculated stability condition.”

MAIB indicated that this omission is widespread in the car carrier sector, risking future incidents. “A key finding of the MAIB investigation is that no departure stability calculation had been carried out on completion of cargo operations and before Hoegh Osaka sailed,” the report read. “Witness and anecdotal evidence suggests that this practice extends to the car carrier sector in general.

“The fundamental requirements for establishing before departure that a ship has a suitable margin of stability for the intended voyage had been eroded on board Hoegh Osaka such that unsafe practices had become the norm.”

Although lashings for cargo were found to be inadequate, shifting of cargo was described as “not causal to the accident”.

The owner and manager of Hoegh Osaka have taken a number of actions aimed at preventing a recurrence, and the MAIB has made recommendations to both to further enhance their respective instructions and procedures.