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Summary

Summary

At about 0200 on 16 April 2004, the duty engineer on board the Panama registered bulk carrier Harmonic Progress discovered that the main ballast line was leaking and the engine room bilge was filling with the ballast water. Despite an immediate temporary repair and utilising pumps to try and clear the bilge, the water level continued to rise until it reached a height at which it caused an electrical short in both main engine lubricating oil pump motors, which disabled the main engine.

The master reported the engine room flooding to the ship's managers who arranged for two tugs to take the ship in tow. The ship was in the Coral Sea, approximately 90 nautical miles north of Hydrographers Passage, when it became disabled. During the 43 hours the ship drifted, prior to the arrival of the first tug, it covered 104 nautical miles in a westerly direction. During the time adrift, the ship came to within 30 nautical miles of the Great Barrier Reef.

Harmonic Progress was towed to the Queensland port of Gladstone, where initial repairs were undertaken in order to enable the ship to proceed under its own power to Brisbane. At Brisbane, Harmonic Progress entered dry dock, where inspection, repair and testing of ballast valves and pumps took place. No one on board was injured during the incident and no pollution resulted.

The report concludes that:

  • A leak in the main ballast line caused the flooding of the engine room to a level in excess of 1.5 m, which led to the main engine lubricating oil pump motors short circuiting and the vessel becoming disabled.
  • A combination of corrosion and erosion caused wastage in the main ballast line, which directly led to the leak.
  • Leaking butterfly valves in numbers two and three (port) topside water ballast tanks led to the two tanks draining into the engine room via the leak.
  • A crossover valve on the main ballast line in the engine room had not been closed after ballast operations.
  • The crew did not isolate the leak by checking associated valves early enough to prevent disabling of vessel.
  • Early action was not taken to prevent the water level rising to the point where the lubricating oil pump motors short circuited.
  • The crew were unfamiliar with the ballast system and did not use a systematic approach to find the source of the water leaking from the ballast line.
  • The pre-delivery inspection of the ship prior to the change of ownership is suspected of being inadequate.

The report recommends that:

  • Ship operators and managers ensure sufficient time is made available for handover of information to key personnel when changes of crew or ownership take place.
  • Ship owners, operators, manager and masters should revise ISM procedures for ballast operations to ensure they are specific to their ships.
  • Classification societies should consider the inclusion of regular ballast line thickness testing around known risk areas, such as 'T' junctions during the enhanced survey program for bulk carriers and oil tankers. This is particularly applicable to ships over 15 years of age.
  • The IMO should consider including the possibility of engine room flooding contingency in SOPEP manuals.
  • Classification societies and owners acquiring existing ships should make it a condition of sale that all the ship's maintenance records are retained on board.

Related Documents: | Media Release |

 
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