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Grounding Averted: Disabled Box Ship Steered to Safety in the UK

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

February 14, 2023

(Photo: United Kingdom Maritime Pilots' Association)

(Photo: United Kingdom Maritime Pilots' Association)

A grounding incident was avoided thanks to swift action by a team of harbor tugs and pilots aboard a Panamanian registered containership that lost power in Southampton, U.K., according to a local pilots group.

At around 11 a.m. on January 26, the 20,000 TEU containership MOL Treasure departed the Port of Southampton bound for Le Harve, amid good, though gusty, weather conditions, with clear visibility and calm seas. But not more than an hour into the passage, the 400-meter-long MOL Treasure developed a significant reduction in engine power.

An escort tug was already present, and Southampton Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) deployed a further three tugs to assist the United Kingdom Maritime Pilots' Association (UKMPA) pilots Capt. Christopher Hoyle and Capt. Neil Dunn on board the vessel, ensuring the stricken box ship remained safely controlled within the navigation channel at all times.

For 10 hours, while the chief engineer set about trying to identify the issue with the engines, pilots Hoyle and Dunn worked with the tugs to keep the ship from drifting and grounding. "This was only possible due to their unique understanding of the waters in this very tricky tidal area of the Solent." UKMPA said.

To ensure all personnel involved were fresh enough to carry out their tasks, the tug crews were exchanged and a third pilot, Capt. Richard Harding, boarded the vessel so that the pilots could "tag team" as two pilots are always needed to pilot a ship of this size.

Shortly before midnight, after more than 10 hours with only significantly reduced power available, the MOL Treasure was safely maneuvered back to port.

"Without the skills of the pilots working as a team with the port's maritime management team involving harbor masters, tug crews, Southampton VTS, and the respective port management staff, the outcome could have been vastly different," UKMPA said. "A major international waterway blocked to trade possibly for weeks, pollution to a major waterway, serious injury or loss of life and significant disruption to supply chains, were all averted."

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