A UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) preliminary assessment report on a near miss between a cruise vessel and a ro-ro ferry on the east coast of England in 2021 has raised concerns over watchkeeping standards in areas of increased navigational awareness.
The incident occurred at about 0230 on 4 November 2021. The cruise vessel Maud and roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ferry Gardenia Seaways passed each other at approximately 130m near the North Shipwash Buoy, to the north of Harwich Haven Authority jurisdictional limits.
The outbound vessel, Maud, had earlier signalled its intention to pass the inbound Gardenia Seaways port to port, but the Maud passed closely ahead of Gardenia Seaways, despite several warning broadcasts from Harwich Vessel Traffic Services (VTS). Neither master was on the bridge at the time and actions from the watchkeepers on both vessels contributed to a dangerous situation developing in an area well known for traffic conflicts.
As a result of MAIB's preliminary assessment, the chief inspector of marine accidents has written to Hurtigruten Expeditions and DFDS Seaways AB (Lithuania) advising them of the safety issues identified and highlighting his concern about the conduct of navigation on both vessels. He has also written to Harwich Haven Authority and advised it to undertake a traffic assessment in consultation with Trinity House and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to identify routeing or procedural measures that will help deconflict traffic in the area.
Hurtigruten Expeditions and DFDS Seaways AB (Lithuania) have taken internal measures to capture the lessons learned from this near miss and improve standards of watchkeeping throughout their fleets. Hurtigruten Expeditions has also increased the Maud's complement of officers to allow for additional watchkeepers in areas that involve increased levels of navigational awareness.