“I KNEW ‘THIS IS HOPELESS’.”

Anchor wire Ndurance tangled: Captain puts job on hold.

It is not something you simply do, putting the job on hold. It is surely the most far-reaching decision you could take when you consider a situation unsafe. Rolf Benders, Captain of the Ndurance, called out a stop-the-job this spring for the first time in his 21-year career. “An informed decision,” he says, “that was well received by the Project Management.”

Having on board five client reps, the Ndurance prepared at Zeebrugge (Belgium) for bringing ashore an export cable. The conditions were challenging: a strong current and a shallow area, in which a trench was dredged in which the Ndurance could float during low water. Anchor handling tug 1 (AHT) threw out the first three anchors without any difficulties. However, at AHT 2 the anchor wire (400 meters) on its spooling winch tangles, says Rolf Benders: “We unsuccessfully tried to loosen the wire. The anchor wire received several snap loads due to the AHT movements, caused by strong current and a moderate sea state. This is dangerous: it pulls the ship with it and the anchor wire suffers a number of shock loads. At that moment I decided to throw out the contingency anchor (the backup), which succeeded. Then the AHT came alongside and I could inspect the anchor wire together with Deck Supervisor Armand de Ruiter. At that moment I knew ‘this is hopeless’; the wire was damaged and tangled to such an extent that I decided to cut it.”

Safety
Concerning the question whether it was a difficult decision, Rolf replies: “To me the ship, the crew and the cargo are most important. As a Captain you first make sure they are brought to safety and afterwards you look at the (commercial) consequences. I was aware that we were lying safely with four anchors in the trench, that the wire would definitely be rejected (also the client would ask questions about the quality) and that the AHT itself would also get into trouble, because it was connected to us at low water. I consulted Chief Mate Aruanas Petrauskas, whom I know well and whose judgment I take seriously. However, in the end it is up to me.”

Trust
“Of course I feel pressure, but it was an informed decision that was well received by both the Project Management and the TS. The trust is there. They immediately arranged a berth where we could replace the wire. This way we also showed the clients that we take safety seriously. Why and how it went wrong with the AHT is unclear, but we withdrew our confidence and a replacing AHT was arranged. After a delay of one and a half days we successfully completed the job without any major incidents. Looking back, I would certainly make the exact same decision.”

“As a Captain you first make sure they are brought to safety and afterwards you look at the (commercial) consequences.”