Bridge unmanned as container ship ran aground

The Coastal Isle aground on the Isle of Bute last year. Picture Crown Copyright.
The Coastal Isle aground on the Isle of Bute last year. Picture Crown Copyright.

The chief mate on a container ship which ran aground on Bute had a certificate of competency which had been fraudulently obtained, a report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch has revealed.

The Coastal Isle’s bridge was unmanned at the time of the accident on July 2 last year, as the chief officer had dismissed the lookout but then suffered from stomach cramps and had to use the toilet.

This happened at 3am, the report states, but the accident did not occur until 4.43am – and when the ship’s master confronted the chief officer immediately afterwards there was ‘a heated argument’.

The report states: “It is highly unlikely that the chief officer suffered stomach cramps, passed out in the toilet, or remained unconscious for one hour and 45 minutes.

“It is considered much more likely that he was asleep in his bed.”

There was a delay of an hour – described as ‘wholly irresponsible’ in the MCA report – before the port was informed.

Clydeport’s deputy harbourmaster then arrived on board and, helped by a tug, piloted the vessel into Greenock where it arrived at 11.37am.

The 27 year-old chief officer told MCA enforcement officers that he had been unconscious in the toilet for nearly two hours; he was prosecuted in the Scottish courts and demoted to the rank of ordinary seamen by the ship’s owner. A breath alcohol test was negative.

STV reported in January that Necati Izmir had been fined £5,000 at Greenock Sheriff Court.

He had obtained his ‘Chief Mate (Unlimited)’ certificate of competency from a fraudulent organisation in Turkey purporting to represent the Panamanian Maritime Authority.

The ship’s master was German but all other crew members were Turkish.

The vessel had two independent bridge watch alarms but neither were in use at the time of the accident, while the power to the voyage data recorder had been switched off nearly two weeks beforehand.

No pollution was caused in the incident at Garroch Head, but the Coastal Isle, which had been sailing from Belfast to Greenock carrying empty containers, suffered ‘extensive structural damage’ and about 12 tonnes of steel had to be renewed.

It is owned by Pasa International Technical Service Ltd (Turkey).

A summary of action taken after the accident and MCA recommendations is included in the full report here.