Friday, November 24, 2017
The Maersk Searcher and Maersk Shipper. (DMAIB)

A unique conjunction of events and circumstances led to the sinking of two Maersk offshore supply vessels in December, 2016, according to a Danish Marine Accident Investigation (DMAIB) investigation.

The 4,013gt Danish ships Maersk Searcher and Maersk Shipper capsized on the night of Dec 21-22 and sank in the Bay of Biscay some 65 miles off the French coast while being towed by another offshore supply ship, the Maersk Battler, 4,363gt, to Aliaga, in Turkey, to be broken up.

The DMAIB report said the two ships were prepared for scrapping in 2016. In the summer, a Maersk superintendent began drafting plans to tow them from Denmark to the scrapyard using an AHTS, the Maersk Chancellor, 2,887gt.

She lacked the winch arrangements for a double tow, so the superintendent began to plan for a side-by-side tow on one wire. “The superintendent was laid off in a round of dismissals before the tow got underway, and he was not given time to hand over his work to his colleagues,” said the DMAIB report.

“A trainee took over the preparations for the tow in December under guidance of a new operations manager. The team assumed that the draft plan for the towing rig was finalised and approved, and that all was ready to go. However, the initial draft was not a finalised towing plan.”

The plan was not designed for the towing vessel that Maersk Supply now decided to deploy, the Maersk Battler, which was equipped for a double tow and did not need the special side-by-side arrangement developed earlier.

With the Maersk Searcher and Maersk Shipper rigged side-by-side, the Maersk Battler left Fredericia on the morning of Dec 12. She headed south through the North Sea then on Dec 20, in the English Channel, the swell increased and the crew paid out the tow wire to about 2,000ft. At this time, they noticed that the fenders between the two PSVs had disappeared, and that the their hulls were making contact.

The crew did not believe that this posed a problem, as the vessels were due to be scrapped, and the captain planned to inspect the ships on reaching the Mediterranean. Inspecting them in choppy conditions in the Channel or the Bay of Biscay was considered too hazardous.

The weather worsened on Dec 21, with westerly swells reaching 15ft. In the morning, it was clear that both vessels had suffered damage to their superstructures, and that they were listing towards each other. Again, the crew did not perceive that this posed any serious risk, as the damage appeared to be above the waterline. The vessels continued to collide into the night.

At about 2330, the watch AB observed that the Maersk Searcher was riding deeper in the water and listing heavily. He alerted the Master, who realised that the she was about to capsize. She went over about 10 minutes later, and threatened to drag the Maersk Shipper down with her by the bridle.

The Maersk Searcher went down at 0022, and the Maersk Shipper capsized a few minutes later. The second vessel stayed afloat until 0600, when she sank.

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - November 2017 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

GMS Expedition

Most Popular

  • Video Campaign for New Seafarers +

  • Side-By-Side Supply Ships Sink +

  • Morale Boost for CalMac +

  • Insurers Back Better Firefighting System +

  • Spotlight on Role of Women in Shipping +

  • 1
  • 2

Top 10 Books and DVDs 2017

Maritime Log

  • Historic Lifeboat Returns Home +

    Bedford A historic lifeboat has returned home to Tyneside after a number of local businesses joined local government to save her. Read More
  • Anchor Catches Torpedo +

    Skaw Provider When the crew of the Maltese-flag oil/chemical tanker Skaw Provider, 4,300dwt, raised the anchor from 15m off Portland, Dorset, they Read More
  • Side-By-Side Supply Ships Sink +

    The Maersk Searcher and Maersk Shipper. (DMAIB) A unique conjunction of events and circumstances led to the sinking of two Maersk offshore supply vessels in December, 2016, Read More
  • Historic Voyage Between China and Russia +

    Lian Hua Song The cargo ship Lian Hua Song (pictured) 20,692gt, of the COSCO Shipping Line, China, arrived at St Petersburg, Russia, in Read More
  • Spotlight on Role of Women in Shipping +

    Sarah West A special reception was held at London’s City Hall on the first day of the London International Shipping Week to Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • ‘Best Trading Months’ in History of Long Beach +

    Port Of Long Beach Records were broken in September when the Port of Long Beach, California, moved more containers than in any other September Read More
  • Hudson's Biggest +

    Steam generator The two-day, 170-mile delivery from the Port of Coeymans near Albany, New York of a new 130-foot high steam generator Read More
  • "Friendship of Salem" to Return This Winter +

    Friendship of Salem The Salem Maritime National Historic Site announced agreement on contract changes for the ongoing overhaul of the three-masted, 171-foot Friendship Read More
  • You're Fired! +

    USS John S McCain After a grounding, three collisions and multiple deaths, Vice Adm Joseph Aucoin was relieved of command of the US Navy’s Read More
  • Old Ironsides Floats Again +

    USS Constitution A two-year overhaul in dry dock for USS Constitution ended on the night of 23/24 July when the waters of Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • Italian Builders to Construct in Australia +

    Fincantieri The Italian shipbuilder and ship designer Fincantieri is to construct sections for cruise ships and frigates in Australia from next Read More
  • Fifteen LNG Carriers For Siberia Project +

    LNG Ice Breaker (DSME) A South Korean company has received a contract to build 15 ice-breaking LNG carriers for Russia, the president of South Read More
  • Asia/Australasia Container Traffic Slumps +

    Drewry Report Container traffic from Asia to Australasia suffered its first quarterly slump in at least five years, falling by 11 per Read More
  • First Order from Taiwan +

    Austal The fast ferry builder Austal Ships, of Henderson, Western Australia, has won its first commercial vessel contract in Taiwan. Read More
  • Kidnapped Crew Killed +

    Royal 16 The Philippine military have found the bodies of three sailors who were kidnapped in two separate incidents over nine months Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • HMS Queen Elizabeth Arrives at Home Port +

    HMS Queen Elizabeth British News An event following the 2010 Defence Review many thought would never happen occurred on Wednesday 16 August when Read More
  • Work Starts on Three Warships +

    Type 25 British News After an almost unseemly wait, the Royal Navy can breathe again having held its breath waiting for the Read More
  • Los Angeles Class Decommissioning +

    USS Dallas American News The end of May saw a lot of submarine news within the US Navy with the decommissioning of Read More
  • HMS Westminster Returns to Service +

    HMS Westminster British News After two years out of service undergoing a major reconstruction and refit, the Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster Read More
  • USS Tripoli Launched Ahead of Schedule +

    USS Tripoli American News Ingalls Shipbuilding achieved a remarkable achievement when they launched the latest America class amphibious assault ship, USS Tripoli, Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Morale Boost for CalMac +

    Glen Sannox The major new units of CalMac’s West of Scotland fleet taking shape at Port Glasgow are to bear the much Read More
  • Summer Scenes - Naples +

    GNV Cristal So when arriving at Naples, we now meet the ex Olau Hollandia ex Pride of Le Havre ex SNAV Sardegna, Read More
  • Summer Scenes - Barcelona +

    Abel Matutes As we head through Autumn – or ‘the Fall’ as our North American readers would put it – and some of the Read More
  • Excursion Woes +

    Waverley The excursion business, especially with the preserved classic vessels, has continued to have major disappointments. Read More
  • Making Points +

    Stena Superfast VIII In recent years, Remontowa at Gdansk has been the go-to yard for many European ferries needing refit and survey and Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • From Rix To Stevie Clarkes +

    The name Rix is long associated with Humber ports with origins traced to Hull businessman Captain Robert Rix in the Read More
  • Staple Trades - Clay +

    Moelfre Rose Before leaving the economically confused days of 2017, I thought I would remind ourselves of some of the staple trades Read More
  • Colne Racing +

    Edme The 46th Colne Smack and Barge Match was sailed from Brightlingsea on September 2 in a very light southerly breeze Read More
  • West Coast Restorations +

    CA Thayer From the day they are launched, every ship has a life expectancy. Read More
  • Captain Tom Galloway +

    Tom Galloway and Shell Driver It is with sadness I report the loss, after a short illness, of long term Sea Breezes follower and valued Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • The Majestic River Rhine +

    MS Charles Dickens In September of this year, my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful Riviera Travel river cruise on the majestic River Read More
  • Video Campaign for New Seafarers +

    To Sea or Not to Sea In an aim to plug the shortfall in numbers of British seafarers, the UK Chamber of Shipping and the Merchant Read More
  • Solent Marine Safety Academy +

    Firefighters Any initiative that helps improve safety at sea and the betterment of the skills set of seafarers in reacting to Read More
  • Forth Bridges - The New Queensferry Crossing +

    Forth Bridges At the end of August 2017, the new Queensferry Crossing opened to traffic. Read More
  • London International Shipping Week +

    London International Shipping Week London International Shipping Week (LISW), held from Sept 11th-Sept 15th, brought together many of the world's maritime leaders who gave Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Britain's Boat Builders are Buoyant +

    British Sunseeker 95 Yacht Brand new industry reports, prepared by British Marine, show that Britain’s boat builders are buoyant and riding the crest of Read More
  • Project Echo +

    Project Echo Having recently delivered the 46m composite catamaran yacht support vessel, Charley, to the owners of the superyacht White Rabbit Golf, Read More
  • Two Unique Ships Meet In Douglas Bay +

    Sega Sapphire and Talitha When Hapag-Lloyd’s new build, the Europa (3), was delivered to the company in 1981, the vessel very quickly was awarded Read More
  • The Movie “Juggernaut “ and the Experiences of an Extra +

    Juggernaut As a contributor to Sea Breezes it is always useful to get comment from our readers. Read More
  • Hydrogen Powered Vessel to Sail Around the World +

    Energy Observer. (J Bidon) A voyage with a planned duration of six years in which 101 ports of call in 50 different countries are Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

John Readhead & Sons

The Role of the Yard Pilot

Anyone who has attended a ship launch will forever remember the thrill of the occasion as the vessel begins its Read More
Duke of Lancaster

TSS Duke of Lancaster

A Typical Summer Sailing From Heysham Harbour – 50 Years Ago Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Rathlin Express

Rathlin Island Ferry Service

In the second of his articles on Northern Ireland’s vital links, Scott Mackey looks at the lifeline ferry service linking Read More
SS Connemara

Disaster in Carlingford Lough

Over 100 years have passed since the tragic collision in Carlingford Lough between the Holyhead passenger steamer Connemara and an Read More
  • 1
  • 2