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MOL publishes measures to prevent ‘MV Wakashio’ grounding and oil spill reoccurrence

21 Dec 2020

Japanese shipping firm Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) on Friday (18 December) announced it has formulated measures to prevent a recurrence of the incident involving the bulk carrier Wakashio, chartered by MOL from a subsidiary of Nagashiki Shipping Co., Ltd. (the Shipowner), which ran aground off the island of Mauritius on Saturday, July 25, and leaked bunker oil on Thursday, August 6.

In developing the measures to prevent reoccurrence, as the investigation and survey by local authorities are still ongoing, MOL said it has reviewed its past initiatives on safe operation based on probable causes, from the beginning-not only from the aspect of the vessel, the front line of safe operation, but other aspects including MOL’s shoreside support system and management systems of shipowners and ship management companies.

In taking these measures, MOL said it continually works to establish a system that it can implement with vessels, shipowners, and other concerned parties, and to further improve the level of safety in overall supply chains that are jointly provided.

The following are MOL’s published findings on the incident as well as measures the company will put in place to prevent any recurrences:

Background of grounding incident (Based on the information the Shipowner obtained from the crewmembers)

Two days before the grounding of Wakashio (July 23), she changed her passage plan-the distance from the coast when sailing off the island of Mauritius-from 22 nautical miles (Note 1) to 5 nautical miles.

On the day of grounding (July 25), she tried to further reduce the distance from the coast from 5 nautical miles to 2 nautical miles, to enter an area within the communication range of mobile phones and used a nautical chart without sufficient scale to confirm the accurate distance from the coast and water depth. In addition, a crewmember neglected appropriate watch-keeping (visually and by radar), even though she was trying to sail 2 nautical miles off the coast. As a result, she ran aground in shallow water (10m deep) 0.9 nautical miles off the coast of Mauritius.

Probable causes

Additionally, the vessel had approached other coasts several times even before the incident, the crew may have taken unsafe actions due to overconfidence that stems from complacency. In MOL’s view, such behavior on a large vessel reflects a lack of safety awareness.

Another reason behind the cause is the crew members lacked awareness of the guidelines on performing navigation in a safe manner and their efforts to conform were insufficient, because they did not prepare an appropriate passage plan that would have ensured appropriate performance, did not own and use the correct nautical map, and neglected visual and radar watchkeeping.

Measures to prevent reoccurrence

MOL will invest the equivalent of about JPY 500 million (USD 4.83 million) in measures to prevent reoccurrence of probable causes, based on the following measures.

Addressing the lack of safety awareness

  • Warning by circular
    •  Make sure personnel on vessels that are owned by MOL or its subsidiaries (“MOL Vessels”) and vessels MOL charters (“Chartered Vessels”) know about the causes of the incident and measures to thoroughly enforce measures to prevent any such reoccurrence.
  • Holding safety campaign (dialogue with crewmembers)
    • Targeting MOL Vessels, hold online dialogues with crew members onboard and on leave to exchange opinions about safety culture.
    • For Chartered Vessels, enforce thorough prevention of recurrence by exchanging opinions about safety culture in a proactive manner.
  • Conduct a safety awareness survey for crewmembers on navigation watch duties
    • Conduct a safety awareness survey targeting crewmembers on navigation watch duties on MOL Vessels and Chartered Vessels, to check fact-finding of crewmembers’ operations. Take necessary measures based on the results.

Addressing the lack of awareness of regulations on safe navigation and insufficient performance

  • Provide education related to operation of electronic nautical charts
    • Targeting crewmembers on navigation watch duties on vessels that MOL Vessels and Chartered Vessels, provide information and education on correct use of electronic nautical charts.
  • Introduce fail-safe operation of electronic nautical charts
    • Plan to introduce a service plan for MOL Vessels, which allows browsing of worldwide electronic charts at all scales, without requiring purchase of the chart. Approach shipowners of Chartered Vessels with the same plan.
    • Ensure thorough awareness and performance in line with guidelines necessary for safe navigation, through circulars and safety campaigns as mentioned above (1)

Enhancement of ship operation quality

Strengthen support system from shore side

  • Improve skills of crewmembers in charge of ship operation and review operational procedures.
    • After matters related to route selection are newly specified in voyage instructions, the crew member in charge of ship operation must check the status of conformity with the instructions. In addition, improve skills of crewmembers in charge of ship operation through inhouse seminars and so on related to ship movement monitoring methods and the newly established qualification system.
    • Reinforce support by the Safety Operation Supporting Center (SOSC)
      • Re-develop the watchkeeping operational manual to reinforce the 24-hour monitoring system.
      • In another move to upgrade the monitoring system, establish a system using multi-faceted methods as well as manned monitoring, by proposing a plan to put in place a new grounding risk monitoring system.

Enhance involvement with shipowners

  • Liaison meetings and mutual visits between MOL and shipowners
    • Make individual and mutual visits in addition to shipowner liaison meetings (for executives/once a year) and shipowners/ship management companies safe operation liaison meetings (for officials/once a year), to check the safe operation system.

Enhance involvement in selection of senior officers

  • Check personal histories, etc. when changing senior officers (captain, chief engineer, chief officer, 1st engineer). In addition, convey MOL’s intention and instructions through briefings to senior officers by the shipowner and direct dialogue with MOL.
  • Review ship’s quality and quality standard/valuation criteria related to the safety management system
    • Review the quality standard MOL requests to shipowners, offer improvement requests as needed by ship inspections and company visits, and establish procedures to assess the selection of shipowner, improve the ship quality and safety management system with shipowners, and put these procedures into place.

Response on hardware side

  • Strengthen deterrent capacity by monitoring cameras on bridge
    • Trials are underway on some MOL Vessels. Examine installation of cameras on all MOL Vessels, after verifying effectiveness of the trials.
  • Upgrade onboard communication systems
    • Install high-speed and large-capacity communication systems on MOL Vessels.
    • Request shipowners to install high-speed and large-capacity communication systems on Chartered Vessels.

To continually “nurture and protect the natural environment by maintaining the highest standards of operational safety and navigation,” as stated in the MOL Corporate Principles, every MOL Group member must take to heart the message that safe operation is the major premise for corporate activities and work to prevent the recurrence of this incident.

Related: MOL seventh update on “MV Wakashio” reveals plans for safe removal of stern
Related: Clyde & Co: After Wakashio, is the Bunker Convention fit for purpose?
Related: IMO continues to mitigate impact of Wakashio oil spill, though insurance is limited
Related: MOL releases second update on “MV Wakashio”, 1800 mt of fuel remain onboard
Related: MOL and Nagashiki Shipping release update on grounded bulk carrier “MV Wakashio”
Related: IMO supports Mauritius in “MV Wakashio” oil spill response issues with technical advice


Photo credit: International Maritime Organisation
Published: 21 December, 2020

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