The UK has issued a reminder to shipowners about the legal requirement to have two people on the bridge at night, following a fatal collision off Sweden in 2021. The collision occurred between the UK-flagged general cargo ship Scot Carrier and the Danish split hopper barge Karin Hoj in the Baltic Sea. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) found that the watchkeeper of the Scot Carrier was alone on the bridge and distracted by a tablet computer before the collision. Both seafarers from the Danish ship died as it capsized. The report also highlighted the dangers of distraction from watchkeeping duties and the importance of having a dedicated lookout on the bridge.
The report revealed that the watchkeeper of the Scot Carrier was using a tablet computer to engage with strangers on a video chat site at the time of the collision. He altered course and continued his online chat, even using the ship’s searchlight to show the chat user the ship’s deck. He did not immediately raise the alarm after the collision. The second officer from the Scot Carrier was later jailed for 18 months in Denmark and banned from entering the country for 12 years.
The MAIB has asked the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to remind shipowners of the requirement to have a lookout in addition to a bridge watchkeeper during the hours of darkness and restricted visibility. The report emphasized the need for seafarers to act professionally and prioritize their watchkeeping duties, as watchkeeping is a safety-critical task. The report also recommended that the Scot Carrier’s manager review its navigational audits and that the owner of the Karin Hoj actively monitor crewing levels to ensure adequate manpower at all times.