LI FUNG Cargo Vessel Major Marine Occurrence
On 22 December, 2019, a Sierra Leone registered general cargo vessel LI FUNG, owned by Lin Fung Shipping (HK) Limited, carrying 15 crew members and one captain, was loaded with cargo and departed the Kaohsiung Port, sailing toward the Busan Port in South Korea. On 25 December, during the sailing, sea water entered the third ballast tank, causing the vessel to gradually tilt toward the starboard side. After the Captain contacted the ship owner, he decided to the anchorage of the Keelung Port and anchored the vessel. The next morning, shore technicians boarded the vessel and investigated, with their initial examination concluding that the leakage was the result of a butterfly valve malfunction in the piping system of the third ballast tank. In the evening of 26 December, the meteorological conditions turned severely in the anchorage of Keelung. The vessel swayed severely and listed toward the starboard side at approximately 20°. The Captain thus applied for emergency permission to enter the Keelung Port. At 0700 on 27 December, the LI FUNG entered the Keelung Port and moored at Pier West 24. After port state control inspectors of the Keelung Port boarded and assessed the LI FUNG, they determined the vessel to be tilting severely and unseaworthy. They also identified malfunctioning of the fire detection system and emergency fire pump. Thus, they ordered the LI FUNG’s classification society to conduct an additional inspection and detention of vessel until its deficiencies improved. No personnel injury or oil pollution in this occurrence.
The LI FUNG tilting severely to the starboard side could be resulted from several factors. For example, the crew lacked professional technical training; after the ballast operation was complete, the crew did not fully turn off the main valve of the piping system; and the butterfly valve of the third ballast tank on the starboard side happened to malfunction. This caused the vessel to tilt after sea water entered the vessel. When the LI FUNG was loaded with cargo, standard operating practices were not strictly followed, with gaps left on both sides of the bulkhead of the cargo. When the vessel swayed in response to the waves and wind, the cargo shifted, exacerbating the vessel’s tilting to the point where regaining balance was impossible.
Pursuant to the Republic of China’s Transportation Occurrences Investigation Act and the International Maritime Organization’s Casualty Investigation Code, the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board (hereafter referred to as the TTSB), an independent transportation occurrence investigation agency, was responsible for investigating this transportation occurrence. Organizations or agencies been invited to participate in the investigation included the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the Maritime and Port Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Taiwan International Ports Corporation, The Craft Union Of Ship Tally Clerks, Lien Hai Terminal & Stevedoring CO., LTD and Oak Shipping Agency CO., LTD.
This accident was investigated in the hope that shipping management companies, terminal stevedore companies, and supervising agencies such as the Maritime and Port Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications use this case as a warning, prevent similar accidents from happening in the future, and ensure compliance with loading and discharging regulations and vessel safety procedures. TTSB proposed several safety measures to the Lien Hai Terminal & Stevedoring Co., Ltd. (a terminal stevedore company), Success Wide Shipping Ltd. (the LI FUNG shipping management company), and Maritime and Port Bureau of the MOTC to improve future marine safety and to ensure such occurrence never happen again.
The draft of the occurrence report was completed in Oct 2021, and in accordance with procedure, was submitted to the 31st TTSB Committee Meeting on October 11, 2021, for preliminary review and revision, and then to the relevant agencies to collect their opinions. After compilation of all relevant opinions, the occurrence report was approved by the 34th TTSB Committee Meeting on January 7, 2022, and published on January 21, 2022.
Based upon the factual information gathered during the investigation process and the results of analysis, 9 investigation findings and 5 safety recommendations were obtained as follows.
Definitions of the findings as the result of this investigation: The TTSB presents the findings derived from the factual information gathered during the investigation and the analysis of the occurrence. The findings are presented in three categories: findings related to probable causes, findings related to risk, and other findings.
The findings related to probable causes identify elements that have been shown to have operated in the occurrence, or almost certainly operated in the occurrence. These findings are associated with unsafe acts, unsafe conditions, or safety deficiencies associated with safety significant events that played a major role in the circumstances leading to the occurrence.
The findings related to risk identify elements of risk that have the potential to degrade transportation safety. Some of the findings in this category identify unsafe acts, unsafe conditions, and safety deficiencies including organizational and systemic risks that made this occurrence more likely; however, they cannot be clearly shown to have operated in the occurrence alone. Furthermore, some of the findings in this category identify risks that are unlikely to be related to the occurrence but, nonetheless, were safety deficiencies that may warrant future safety actions.
Other findings identify elements that have the potential to enhance transportation safety, resolve a controversial issue, or clarify an ambiguity point which remains to be resolved. Some of these findings are of general interests that are often included in the International Maritime Organization format accident reports for informational, safety awareness, education, and improvement purposes.
- After the ballast operation was complete, the LI FUNG crew did not fully turn off the main valve of the piping system, and the butterfly valve of the third ballast tank on the starboard side malfunctioned, resulting in water entering the vessel and the vessel listing to the starboard side right at 5°, from which it could not right itself.
- The LI FUNG crew did not comply with the regulations for loading cargo, leaving gaps on both sides of the bulkhead. Consequently, during sailing, the flexible intermediate bulk containers on the two decks shifted and changed the vessel’s center of gravity. When anchored at the Keelung Port, severe meteorological conditions caused the vessel to sway severely and eventually tilt to the starboard side at 20°.
- The tally and stevedore company did not meet their responsibilities in terms of vessel tallying operations nor comply with code of safe practice for cargo stowage and securing (CSS CODE); instead, gaps were left on both sides of the cargo. Consequently, during sailing, the cargo shifted and altered the vessel’s center of gravity, causing the vessel to tilt and making rebalancing impossible.
- The LI FUNG management company did not provide documents of standard cargo operating procedures under the vessel safety management system. Consequently, the people onboard had no regulations to follow.
- The captain of the LI FUNG was careless in managing the vessel certificates, allowing several certificates to expire.
- The captain of the LI FUNG did not thoroughly supervise cargo stowage storage and securing operations nor did he insist on the professional seaworthiness of the vessel.
- The crew members of the LI FUNG did not properly manage the piping system of the ballast tank, failing to implement the daily measurement operation of this tank.
- The crew members of the LI FUNG responsible for loading cargo goods were negligent and failed to correct the situation in which cargo stowage storage and securing was substandard.
- The new inspection regime system of Taiwan’s port state control cannot effectively prevent risk to foreign national vessels nor eliminate or reduce the hazard caused by substandard vessels. Thus, the inspection system cannot meet the goals of ensuring the safety of people on the ocean and protecting the marine environment.