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The Cause Of The Grounding Of M/V Braer, How Crew Morale, Equipment Failure And Weather Conspired To Wreck A Tanker

1570 words - 6 pages

The chain of events of January 5, 1993 that had started innocently enough involved a number of reasons including human error by not adequately preparing a vessel for sea, the extreme weather conditions that the vessel proceed into, and later, the lack of lead time for a rescue tug to prepare for a ship in distress. With all that had gone wrong that day, the very forces of nature that had assisted in the creation of this disaster actually worked to spare the region of the worst of the ensuing spill.The MV BRAER began her voyage with a load of 85,000 tons of light crude from Mongstad, Norway, to a refinery in Quebec, Canada; this was her 99th voyage from this port and celebrations were planned for her 100th arrival upon her return. Weather was already bad with the storm at Gale Force Nine (41-47 knots). Twenty-six to thirty foot seas were hitting BRAER on her port side and green water was coming on deck and breaking; BRAER was rolling approximately 10 degrees from side to side. Progress was at a snail's pace at 2.5 knots and 24 hours after leaving her loading port she had only gone 60 miles.Previous to this voyage, there were some issues that although are not directly related to the wrecking of BRAER, most certainly could have contributed to her demise and warrant mentioning. BRAER herself was a very well built vessel. She was one of the last of her type of building ships "the old way". Without the use of computer-aided design where tolerances in ship-building and the use of high-tensile steels allowed building of ships just enough to withstand the stresses of heavy seas, the likelihood of catastrophic failure was more possible than that of conventionally-built ships of the same type. BRAER also proved her seaworthiness by easily passing recent inspections by Det Norske Veritas.Part of the problem lay in the relationship between the crew and her owners Bergvall & Hudner Group (B & H). Crewmembers were complaining of being paid late or not at all for such things as overtime. The crew had also stated that they were not being compensated for holidays, were given insufficient food allowances, was operating undermanned, etc. Two of her previous skippers were in legal dispute with B & H over unpaid wages as well. Perhaps, by B & H hiring crew members from various parts of the world, and although this might be customary practice, perhaps it can be construed by some that B & H was attempting to save money by acquiring cheaper labor at the risk of professionalism - at least where crewing was concerned; and perhaps upon reflection, one could attribute more of the blame of events of this January day on the morale of the crew.One day later on January 4th, while south of The Shetland Islands, at approximately 1000 hours, spare pipes that were mounted on a rack welded to the deck and bulkhead of the after house broke free and rolled around on the after deck.This rack had been installed in 1992 during a return "in ballast" voyage for the...

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