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Ship grounding renews maritime fatigue concerns

A report into the grounding of a cargo vessel off the coast off Antrim in Northern Ireland has renewed calls for measures to be taken to address fatigue in the maritime sector.

The Antari ran aground north of Larne during a voyage from Corpach, Scotland to Belgium at 3.21 am on June 29, 2008. The Belfast coastguard was alerted by a motorist on a nearby coast road.

According to an incident report issued by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Board (MAIB), with no dedicated lookout on duty, the watchkeeper had been asleep in his seat for around three hours on a warm, moonless night in calm seas when the 88 metre vessel struck the beach.

While no-one was seriously injured, more than 70 percent of the hull was damaged, requiring 25 tonnes of steel to repair.

The watchkeeper, one of only seven crew working at the time, had been following a six hours on, six hours off shift pattern for the previous three and a half months, a regime harshly criticised by the MAIB.

“As has been demonstrated in many previous accidents, such a routine on vessels engaged in near coastal trade poses a serious risk of cumulative fatigue,” the report said.

In 2004, a study undertaken by the MAIB outlined concerns over unacceptable levels of cumulative fatigue in bridge watchkeepers brought about by minimal crewing practices. In light of this, recommendations were made in an attempt to address the problem. However, according to the MAIB, these were largely ignored.

Since then, in six of the nine groundings investigated, the officer on the watch had fallen asleep. The MAIB described this as, “a continuing and unacceptable trend”, and following the Antari incident, has taken the “exceptional step of recommending that the UK administration takes unilateral action to ensure the safety of shipping within UK waters and to protect the environment”.

sources: BBC, The Telegraph, Lloyd’s List