Vessel collision with crane at Port of Vancouver raises concerns about increasing size of container ships

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      An investigation what happened when a large vessel collided with a crane at the Port of Vancouver last year has raised concerns about the port's ability to accommodate increasingly large container ships that are arriving in Vancouver.

      Today (November 5), the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report into the container vessel Ever Summit colliding with a berth in the Port of Vancouver.

      On January 28, 2019, as the ship was mooring at Vanterm in the Vancouver port, with the assistance of two tugboats, it crashed into the berth and a crane.

      According to the investigation report, the pilot and the bridge team’s view of the tugboats was obscured. Instead, the pilot reportedly relied upon memory and a “mental model of the manoeuvre” to keep track of where the tugboats were.

      As the ship’s crew were focused on monitoring the position of vessel and carrying out orders, they weren’t monitoring the pilot’s commands to the tugs.

      The investigation found that procedures for tug use are left up to individual pilots, and that there weren’t any standard communication protocols in place at the time of the collision.

      When the tugboats were attempting to move the bow of the vessel towards the berth, the forward tug would be instructed to push and the aft tug to pull. However, the pilot inadvertently mixed up the positions of the tugs and gave them the opposite commands.

      Unfortunately, corrective action was ineffective.

      Consequently, the vessel’s stern hit the berth and the crane.

      From the closed-circuit television footage of the Ever Summit at the time of the collision.
      GCT Canada, with TSB annotations

      The crane collapsed inward towards the terminal while the crane’s boom fell onto the ship.

      The vessel sustained damage, including a hole of approximately 30 centimetres by 40 centimetres punctured in the vessel’s shell plating. The berth was also damaged, which disrupted vessel operations at the berth for eight days.

      One crane was considered a total loss while a second crane sustained minor damage. Also, several tractor-trailers below the second crane were damaged.

      No one was injured and there wasn’t any pollution from the collision. 

      At the time, the vessel was involved in service between the North American West Coast (B.C. and Washington state) and ports in Asia (China and Japan).

      The TSB pointed out that container vessel sizes have substantially increased over the past decade, and that they have little tolerance for error if infrastructure isn’t upgraded.

      Transport Canada and port authorities aren’t currently required to examine the suitability of a berth for larger vessels, which is left up to individual terminals to decide upon. 

      After the incident, British Columbia Coast Pilots developed standard operating procedures for tug communications during berthing and unberthing.

      In addition, the Port of Vancouver and the Vanterm operator reviewed their crane storage practices. The Port Information Guide was amended in June to reflect crane positioning requirements at Port of Vancouver container terminals for arriving and departing vessels.

      Temporary repairs to the hull of the ship were completed on February 6 before it continued on to its next voyage.

      Vanterm berth layout
      Google Earth, with TSB annotations

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