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Preliminary Inquiry No. 2 of 2000

Collision between Hong Kong Registered Liquefied Petroleum Gas Carrier
“Lady Elena” and Polish Registered Sailing Yacht “Bieszczady”
on 10 September 2000
A. The incident

1.   At about 0525 hours local time on 10 September 2000, the Hong Kong registered liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carrier Lady Elena, whilst was enroute from Porvoo to Rotterdam, collided with the Polish flag sailing yacht Bieszczady which sailed from Heligoland to a port in Poland. The collision took place in the approximate position of 56° 35.80’N 007° 28.40’E, about 24 miles west-south-west of Thyboron, Denmark. The weather conditions were fair and the visibility was good (see Appendix A).

2.   At the time of the collision, Lady Elena was on the course of 214°T at about 12.5 knots whilst Bieszczady was steering the course of 010°C at about 7 knots. When the navigating officer of Lady Elena, the Chief Officer saw a sail fine on the port bow of his ship, he made an alteration of course to port. At that moment Bieszczady was turning to starboard. As a result a collision occurred. Bieszczady was struck at the location on her port side near amidships (see Appendix B).

3.   Lady Elena sustained no apparent damage whilst Bieszczady sank immediately. Of the eight persons onboard the yacht, only the Second Officer was rescued by a nearby trawler. Six others were dead and one person was missing.

4.   The trawler Brian Kent was in the vicinity at the time of the collision. The Master of Brian Kent had visually seen the white light displayed by Bieszczady but it was very weak. He also saw the echo of Bieszczady on the radar but it was weak as well. The Master of Brian Kent made a wide alteration of course to port for Bieszczady. He also saw Lady Elena on his radar.

B. Findings

1.   The Master of Bieszczady, who was in charge of the navigational watch mistook the white masthead lights of Lady Elena as the stern light. He decided to follow the light. No proper lookout was maintained in accordance with Rule 5 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGs) until he realized he had made a mistake. However it was too late for him to take any action to prevent a collision.

2.   The Chief Officer of Lady Elena was concentrating his attention to avoid a collision with a trawler when a close-quarters situation with the yacht developed. As a result he did not perform radar watch during that period. When he resumed radar watch after the trawler had passed clear, the yacht had already been at a close range from Lady Elena. Its echoes were masked by the sea clutters and were not then detected by the Chief Officer. Until the Able Seaman reported sighting of a sail on the port bow of Lady Elena, the Chief Officer realized the risk of collision existed. He then made an alteration of course to port but could not avoid the collision. In this regards the Chief Officer had failed to comply fully with Rule 5 of COLREGs, which provides that every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions, including the use of radar.

3.   The sidelights of the Yacht fitted at the bow might not have been properly lit for a length of time before collision. Consequently the crew of Lady Elena did not visually notice the presence of the Yacht until it was at a very close range.

C. The Lessons

1.   Not maintaining a proper lookout by all available means especially operational radar is mainly the cause of the collision. The obligations to maintain a proper lookout as required by Rule 5 of the COLREGs is considered very important in the collision avoidance process.

Appendix A

Appendix A


Appendix B

Appendix B

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