First Officer found guilty for Helge collision

First Officer found guilty for Helge collision

Photo: The Marine Home Guard/Nikolaj Hviid

The Dutch Maritime Disciplinary Court has ruled that the First Officer of the Helge was at fault for the collision with the overtaking vessel Wild Cosmos in the early morning of September 9, 2022. The vessel was soon towed to the Port of Esbjerg in a salvage operation.

According to the court, the First Officer seriously failed in his responsibilities. The collision and all its consequences were therefore not prevented. Luckily there were no serious personal injuries.

The court suspended the First Officer’s license, who has resigned from his position and been unemployed since the incident. Additionally, due to his cooperation with the inspectors, and his understanding of the error made, the court has shortened the duration of the suspension from the one originally demanded by the inspector in the case.

“The Disciplinary Court agrees that these are extenuating circumstances in this case and is therefore of the opinion that it is sufficient to impose a partially conditional suspension of the navigation licence,” the court notice reads.

The Incident

On the morning of September 9, 2022, the vessel Helge was travelling from Antwerp to Heroya in Norway at a speed of eight knots. The wind was blowing from the East, causing a rough sea and moderate swell. Despite the darkness and rain, visibility was good.

The Helge was sailing on the open sea, about 20 miles off the west coast of Denmark. At 05:20, it was hit starboard aft by Wild Cosmos, which was sailing at around 17 knots. This collision caused leaks and flooding in the ballast water tanks 3 SB, 4 SB, and the engine room of Helge. The ship listed to the right and the back of the ship dipped lower into the water. The collision also caused a blackout on the ship, leaving it NUC (Not Under Command).

At 6:00 AM, the crew of seven, including the First Officer, left the Helge and took refuge in a life raft. After 30 minutes, a rescue helicopter arrived, lifted the crew from the life raft, and transported them safely to Esbjerg.

The Case

The senior inspector of the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT)/Shipping in Zwijndrecht, B.A.C. van Geest, acting on behalf of the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, has stated that the First Officer did not fulfil his duty of care as a responsible seaman towards the people on board, the vessel, the cargo, the environment and other shipping traffic.

During the hearing, the First Officer claimed the original demand was too strict and excessive. He had only been in the position for two months and was working on paperwork at the time of the accident. The Wild Cosmos failed to keep a safe distance, and the previous lookout and Second Officer did not give a warning of an overtaking vessel. Although he was unable to prevent the collision, he did not act without due care. He has learned from the incident and did not intend to violate any standards or rules. The person resigned from his position due to the incident and has been unemployed for nearly seven months, which has been difficult for his family.

The court highlighted the fact that WIld Cosmos should have given a wide berth to Helge, however, should the First Officer have acted accordingly, he would have been able to avoid the collision.

Author: Adnan Bajic

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