A RUSSIAN sailor had drunk half a litre of rum before he drove a cargo ship aground at full speed in the Highlands, an official report into the incident has revealed.
Lysblink Seaways crashed near Kilchoan in the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in February. The report said that while the sailor’s drinking was to blame for the incident, a failure to follow procedures on board also meant the accident could not have been prevented.
The chief officer, a 36-year-old who took over the sailing of the vessel from another sailor around midnight, had earlier made a personal phone call which “made him anxious”, according to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch report.
Afterwards, he consumed 500ml of rum before taking control of the vessel on the night shift just a few hours later.
Breathalyser tests after the accident found that he was eight times over the limit.
The report said: “The MAIB investigation found that the officer of the watch - who was the sole watchkeeper - had become inattentive at about 0200 due to the effects of alcohol consumption.”
It added: “The vessel grounded when the OOW lost situational awareness due to his consumption of alcohol. While the chief officer’s performance can largely be accounted for by his alcohol consumption, the investigation also uncovered poor navigational practices and that defences/control measures for the officer of the watch becoming incapacitated were being ignored. Many of these, had they been in place, could have prevented the accident.”
An alarm system, which could have alerted the crew to the officer’s incapacity, had been switched off, while the report also found that depleted stocks of alcohol in the ship’s store indicated “significant” levels of drinking by the crew - despite the owner of the ship implementing a “zero alcohol policy”.
The report said: “Lysblink Seaways carried a bonded store, which included a stock of spirits, beer and wine. Records showed that the bonded store was regularly replenished, and empty beer, wine and spirit bottles and cartons found on board after the accident indicated significant levels of alcohol consumption by the crew.”
The vessel, which was travelling from Belfast to Norway, remained aground for almost two days, during which time it was pounded heavily onto the rocky foreshore in bad weather, causing damage to its hull and spilling 25 tonnes of marine gas oil into the water.
It was later deemed to be a write-off and scrapped.