The master of a Malaysian Bulk Carriers bulker has been criticised by UK authorities for failing to stop after a fatal collision with a fishing boat.
The report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) also said there was evidence that records were altered in an attempt to cover up the accident involving the 87,000–dwt Alam Pintar (built 2005)) on 20 December in the English Channel.
The ship hit the UK trawler Etoile des Ondes north of Cherbourg, sinking it and killing crewman Chris Wadsworth.
The report said Alam Pintar was on an east-north-easterly course between the Casquets and the Dover Strait traffic separation schemes on its way to Hamburg.
The bridge was manned by an inexperienced officer and an unqualified deck cadet.
The officer of the watch had seen the other boat and changed course, but this was rendered ineffective when Etoile des Ondes also changed course as part of its fishing operations.
The officer then ordered the wheel hard-a-starboard, but this was too late to be effective in preventing the collision.
When the master arrived on the bridge, he was told that his vessel had probably been in collision with a fishing boat, but that the fishing vessel had been seen after the collision, still afloat and well lit.
The master checked the radar and saw a target astern of Alam Pintar, which he assumed to be the fishing vessel.
The target appeared to be moving, so he concluded the fishing vessel was safely afloat, and continued on his passage.
MAIB said: “The master and office of the watch of Alam Pintar were aware of the collision, but failed to stop.
“They made no attempt to confirm if Etoile des Ondes and her crew were safe, and failed to report the incident.
“There is evidence to suggest that the crew of Alam Pintar subsequently attempted to alter recorded contemporaneous data to mask the vessel’s involvement in the accident.”
It became apparent to MAIB inspectors boarding Alam Pintar on her arrival at Hamburg, that the vessel’s records had been altered, or adjusted to obscure any evidence of the actions taken around the time of the collision.
During initial interviews, crew accounts of the night of the accident conflicted with incontrovertible AIS and radar information already available to the inspectors; documents presented by the vessel appeared to support the crew’s claims that their vessel had not been involved in a collision.
“After patient investigation, the truth emerged and was verified,” MAIB said.
“The consequences and ramifications of these actions are outside the scope of this report and are the subject of separate investigation by the vessel’s flag state.”
MAIB added: “Attempts to alter or destroy evidence are both illegal and foolish. Accident investigators have a mass of information, both on board and elsewhere, which will rapidly identify such actions.
“Most technical recording devices will record all attempts to tamper with the evidence. Such attempts serve purely to turn an accident into a crime.”
The report also highlighted that distress flares from the boat were seen by at least three other vessels, and a general May Day was broadcast, but only two ships responded, including a ferry that picked up the three surviving crew.
MBC said it had cooperated fully “with all the national bodies investigating this most tragic and unfortunate case.
“We are currently awaiting the decision of Singapore’s MPA which has jurisdiction in this case and will act according to their findings and verdict.
“The company has never tried to hide the fact that the Alam Pintar was the vessel involved in this serious accident and our thoughts and condolences remain with the next of kin.”