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Silenced alarms, ignored radio messages and tiredness contributed to grounding of cargo vessel Kaami near Skye

Kaami stuck on rocks in The Minch.
Kaami stuck on rocks in The Minch.

Marine accident investigators have found the skipper of the cargo vessel Kaami had silenced alarm buzzers, ignored a radio message warning of the danger and was likely tired when it ran aground of the coast of Skye.

The ship struck the Sgeir Graidach rocks in the Little Minch between the north coast of the isle and Lewis in stormy seas shortly before 2am in March last year.

Coastguard crews were scrambled to evacuate the eight Russian crewmembers by helicopter.

Movements on the rocks had become so severe that none of the personnel were able to stand and had to lie on the deck of the bridge while they awaited rescue.

The extent of damage caused to the Kaami’s hull was so extensive it was declared a total loss and was scrapped.

Missed warnings led to ship running aground

Investigators from the MAIB have concluded that a series of failings on behalf of the Kaami crew led to them running aground on March 20 last year – beginning before the vessel even set sail.

A report published by the organisation has found that a full appraisal of navigating the Minch was not made, leading to a recommended route not being used.

Kaami was scrapped at the drydock in Kishorn. Photo: MAIB.

No calculations were made of the minimum clearance underneath the ship, which was operated by Norwegian-based Misje Rederi, were made with safety settings set on an electronic chart found to be incorrect.

Crew members on board also failed to realise the significance of warning buoys.

Even a radio message from a nearby fishing vessel warning of the dangers ahead went unheeded, despite it being sent early enough to avoid the collision.

Kaami captain had only had three hours sleep

MAIB investigators praised the presence of a lookout on the Kaami during the hours of darkness, but found he had not been given “clear expectations of the role” to the point there was “no communication” between him and the commanding officer to avoid running aground.

The report adds: “Although Kaami was kept close to her planned route, and the voyage plan was strictly followed, the commanding officer had poor awareness of the maritime environment around him.

Damage caused to the hull led to Kaami being scrapped. Photo: MAIB.

“His ECDIS (electronic chart display and information system) display provided a safety contour and isolated danger symbology for the area of grounding but no alerts were present on the system either visually or audibly as the alert functions were not selected and the alarm audio buzzers silenced.”

The Kaami was found to be crewed safely, but investigators found the captain did not have the time imagined by the operators to plan the voyage.

The commanding officer had only slept three hours prior to the incident due to long hours worked at the port before departure.

Recommendations have been made to operators Misje Rederi to review the number of watchkeeping officers on board vessels, review ECDIS use and ensure lookouts are integrated as members of the bridge crew.

Kaami was eventually refloated on May 4 and towed to docks in Kishorn, where it was scrapped.

Timeline of the Kaami’s grounding

  • March 19, 2020 – 8.30pm – Kaami departed Drogheda in Ireland carrying 1,927 tonnes of fuel pellets, made from recycled material, for Slite in Sweden.
  • 10.55pm – Weather deteriorates following departure with sea conditions now described as “rough to very rough”, despite good visibility.
  • 11pm – Commanding officer takes over on bridge with lookout.
  • 1am – Kaami contacts Stornoway Coastguard to advice ship was approaching recommended northerly route between islands Fladda-chuain and Eileen Trodday.
  • 1.35am – Warning message sent by fishing vessel Ocean Harvest to Kaami. Kaami’s commanding officer responded to call, thanked them for information, and said he would alter course in next few minutes.
  • 1.40am – Commanding officer and lookout feel “two heavy impacts” and vessel comes to a stop.
  • 1.45am – Second fishing vessel Harvester notes Kaami has stopped and calls ship on radio.
  • 1.46am – Kaami calls Stornoway Coastguard to report they have run aground.
  • 3.07am – Kaami informs Coastguard they want to abandon ship.
  • 4.20am – All crew have been safely winched off by helicopter and are taken to Stornoway.

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