Tanker Master's Fatigue Cited in $73 Million Marine Accident

Atina’s master at the time of the accident boarded the underway vessel outbound to the anchorage, only seeing the departing master on the tanker’s deck. The company placed the accident master into critical vessel evolutions, such as navigating downriver and anchoring at night, without any overlap with the departing master. The company’s SMS required a minimum one-day turnover

NSTB Report is here.

The NTSB might be shocked at how often the “turnover overlap” section of the SMS gets violated.


Well I’ll be damned, is this the first time in a while that an accident report found the root cause to be Management instead of hanging the Master with “Human Error”?

3.1 ProbableCause
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the contact of tanker Atina with the oil and gas production platform SP-57B was the Atina’s operating company not ensuring sufficient time for the master’s turnover, which resulted in the master’s acute fatigue and poor situation awareness during an attempted nighttime anchoring evolution.


Yes, finally.


So nobody’s going to mention that the Captain is not the one navigating down river?

The Master is in command and responsible, regardless of who “do the navigation”, incl. any Pilot who happen to give the orders. (Known as “Master’s Command, Pilot’s orders”)


No shit.

And the reality is he was either in his office reading emails or smoking on the bridgewing. He’s not actually doing anything on the 2 hour trip from Pilottown to the pilot disembarkation.

Oh I didn’t know you were there. Are you sailing FOC now??
Regardless of where the Master was, or what he was doing, he is still responsible for whatever is happening on his ship.
(Ref. The Capt. on Exxon Valdez. He thrusted a 3rd Mate)

The issue is not so much that the minimum turn over time in the SMS was not followed but the fact that the captains were given little choice in the matter.

Joining the ship underway at around 0100 with little or no sleep in two days and then having to anchor in that area is obviously a bad idea. Had the company made arrangements allowing for a longer turnover the captains could have used their own judgment as to the appropriateness of doing a turnover on the tanker’s deck while underway to anchor.


Strange case. A tanker in ballast is anchoring at zero speed and it is suggested that it contacted a fixed platform that nobody saw, heard and felt and caused $73M damages that are not described in the report.

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So you didn’t actually read the report huh?

She was heaving anchor and moving at 5kn…

at 0421, he ordered the anchor to be heaved up…At 0440…Atina was making a speed over ground of 5 knots.

As explained in the report, the Mate didn’t, but the Captain did:

it is likely that the second mate was looking at the S-band radar. The S-band radar was set at a scale of 3 miles, making platform SP-57B difficult to see because it was lost in radar clutter close to the Atina. The master was likely looking at the X-band radar, on which the scale was set to 1.5 miles, making the SP-57B easily visible at 0.5 miles.

As described in the report (although the ultimate value seems high, it was an “estimate”):

SP-57B sustained a fractured and bulged leg as well as severed, buckled, and crushed structural members above and below the waterline.

Didn’t anybody look out of the window?

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Darn, you mean to tell me the SMS wasn’t adhered to?


Not really. The issue was the joining master hadn’t gotten any sleep for 24 hrs and not much in the last 48 hrs.

The procedure not followed was a requirement for a full day turnover. In this case the master almost certainly would not have struck the rig even with a very short turnover had he gotten adequate sleep before the incident. Also perhaps even with a full day’s turnover the risk remains if there was still a lack of sleep.

The direct cause is the master’s fatigue.


While working in Indonesia we had crew coming from all over the world for crew change. Upon arrival in Indonesia the company would put us in a hotel for 12-16 hours [depended on where you came from] prior to transit to the ship. Gave us time to partially recover from jet lag, get some rest and a decent meal or two after traveling for up to 36 hours. Paid off in many ways.


Is a full day turnover as they were supposed to have common for crew changes? What’s the generally accepted turnover time for crew coming on duty if they aren’t flying halfway across the globe like this master was?

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No, but it looks impressive and ‘safety focused’ in the company’s SMS.


The company usually schedules transportation such that a full working day is allowed for if needed. In my experience the off-going captain leaves when both captains are satisfied the turnover is complete. I’ve never seen a turnover actually take the full working day.

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Much appreciated, @Capt_Phoenix and @Kennebec_Captain. Thank you!

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