Cargo ship crew warned about hidden rocks minutes before grounding

Crew on a cargo ship were warned by a fishing boat that they were minutes from hitting rocks before the vessel ran aground, an investigation has confirmed.

The ship – Kaami – grounded on Sgeir Graidach in the Little Minch between the isles of Skye and Lewis at about 1.40am on 23 March last year.

A watchkeeper of a local fishing vessel warned the Kaami on a very high frequency radio channel it was headed towards a submerged ridge of rocks.

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Within six minutes of the warning, crew felt two heavy impacts and the vessel came to a stop.

Coastguard helicopter video still showing the general cargo vessel Kaami aground on Sgeir Graidach shoal in the Little Minch.

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With Kaami’s movement on the rocks worsening, the movement of the boat became “so violent” that the crew were unable to stand safely and had to lie down on the deck.

At about 3am, the ship’s master informed Stornoway coastguard he wanted to abandon ship, and at about 4am a helicopter flew the crew to safety.

No-one was injured in the incident.

A report recently released by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch confirmed the rocks had not been identified as a risk during the planning for the crew’s trip.

The document also said look ahead features on the ship’s electronic chart were not activated and the lookout was therefore not “effective”.

The watchkeepers at Stornoway Coastguard Operations Centre did not intervene prior to Kaami’s grounding as they were unaware of the developing situation, the report confirmed.

The cargo ship was eventually refloated six weeks later, but was so badly damaged it was declared a "constructive total loss" and had to be scrapped.

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