Forthbank Collision with Van Brienenoord Bridge

Phillti
22nd May 2009, 15:25
Anyone Remember this incident (see attached photos) where on the 22 January 1981 the Forthbank managed to ram quite a large bridge in Rotterdam and flatten all of the masts and derrecks forward of the accomodation?

Rgds

Tim

Alistair Macnab
22nd May 2009, 16:16
Wow! I never heard of this! Tell me more, someone!

rabaul
22nd May 2009, 21:32
i always thaough it was antwerp?

ROBERT HENDERSON
22nd May 2009, 21:41
i always thaough it was antwerp?

I cannot remember any bridges in the Rotterdam dock system where deepsea ships are likely to berth.
The name of the bridge quoted in post 1 rings a bell, I remember coming through the locks at Antwerp and turning to starboard to go through the dock system there was a swing bridge, I believe this is most likely to be the biridge in question.

Regards Robert

peter3807
22nd May 2009, 22:11
Rotterdam is correct. It spans the Nieuw Maas.

Peter

Gulpers
22nd May 2009, 22:57
Wherever, or whatever it was, she certainly hit something with a helluva clout! (EEK)

Charlie Stitt
23rd May 2009, 09:49
Bank Line ships often went to Boeles Shipyard on the river Maas, and to get there you had to pass under the Brienenoord bridge. The Forthbank must have been going to Boeles, but how did she not get the air draft required? I passed under this bridge on the old Cederbank and she was light ship with topmasts in place.Alistair, is this a Master's nightmare or not ? I can just imagine the panic immediatly before collision.(EEK)

Alistair Macnab
23rd May 2009, 18:40
Whenever I passed under a bridge I always prayed that our air draft calculation was correct! Here in Houston, the Ship Channel Bridge that spans the Houston Ship Channel just to the seaward of City Docks at the Turning Basin was hit TWICE and about a year apart, by sister units of large multipurpose ships built and operated by Rickmers in Germany.
It wasn't the fixed topsides that were at fault but the Mates lifting the booms of the heavy derricks when they was not supposed to and no one noticing!
Apparently there was a pickup truck crossing the bridge at the time when all of a sudden the top end of a Stulcken derrick punched through the roadway just in front of him! The first time, the bridge was closed for six months and on the second occasion, the bridge was closed for a year because it was in dire condition of needing to be replaced.
The "Forthbank" photographs of the unstayed foremast being broken off at deck (or was it masthouse?) level are quite shocking and I agree, Charlie, this is certainly the stuff of a Master's nightmares!

China hand
24th May 2009, 09:04
I thought it was the Clydebank (again), might be wrong. I saw a whole stack of the pictures just after it happened. The foremast actually stood up again, and then was bent FORWARD as she backed out. I was told that nobody was hurt because those in the wheelhouse tried to get out, those on the bridge wing tried to get in, and they all met in the doorways, but that may be embellishment. Evidently it was a hell of a repair bill on the mainmast because they were made of a special sort of steel.

Phillti
24th May 2009, 11:08
Interesting to see everyones recollection of this incident. I was actually onboard at the time as a cadet and luckily stationed down aft with the second mate.
Can definately confirm it was Rotterdam and definately the Forthbank also Correct that the vessel had been in Bolnes drydock for about 4 weeks I seem to remember we were doing her quadranial survey? as every block had been taken down and inspected.
We left the dry dock in thick fog as can still be seen in the pictures which I took the following morning. From leaving the drydock to the bridge was only a couple of miles so we reached it very quickly. The Van Brienenoord bridge in 1981 consisted of one span (looked a bit like Sydney harbour bridge) and a small section on the northern side which lifts up to let vessels thru. On the approach to the opening a series of dolphins mark the approach and should have been passing down our port side if we had been lined up correctly for passing through the open span.

We had 2 tugs fast aft and I recall chatting to the second mate about whatever, then suddenly seeing dolphins passing down the stb side and thought thats odd.

Next thing there was a terrible crunching noise coming from fwd and the stern was starting to lift. Both tugs dropped their lines and at the same time the engines started going astern. The second mate started screaming at the crew to haul in the lines as quick as possible to stop them being caught in the prop. This kept all down aft busy for the next few moments.
At some stage during this commotion down aft I remember looking up towards the funnel and seeing the bridge coming out of the fog. I seem to recall people on the bridge dropping bicycles and running back across the main span of the bridge towards the south bank. Anyhow the engine was still going full astern as the radar mast hit the bridge and was bent back into the funnel. As the funnel made contact with the bridge our forward momentum stopped and the vessel started moving astern. From comments of the guys forward afterwards as the funnel hit, the foremast which had maintained contact with the underside of the bridge during the forward impact suddenly popped up clear on the other side of the bridge.

As the vessel then came astern it was pulled forward which is why it has such a weird twisted look in the photo.

Anyhow the vessel slowly extracted itself from under the bridge and ended up in the middle of the river in thick fog with no radar, radio or comms at all.

Luckily the tugs which had previously let us go came back and made fast again and moved us back to the Bolnes drydock repair berth. All in all quite a nerve wracking event for everyone on board but luckily no one was injured.

We had a cadet from PNG onboard who was forward with the mate during the whole incident. He had turned a funny sort of white colour which For a black guy was quite funny to see.

Capt Barber was the old man and we had one senior pilot and a trainee pilot onboard at the time. We were all paid off the next day and I heard nothing more about the incident.

Anyhow having now done a bit of research in the last 6 months or so I have located a magazine article which has extracts of the court case several years later as to exactly what happend and why. Must confess to being really surprised as to the ultimate cause of the accident.

Anyone have any thoughts?

Will revert with full details after I get back from Greece & Crete (See Roybank Aground Thread) as departing for the airport now.

Back in about 10 days

Rgds

Tim Phillips

Jim Harris
24th May 2009, 11:32
I think that you may have opened up a nice can of worms
with this one, Tim.

Regards,

Jim.

John Cassels
25th May 2009, 08:55
Interesting thread. The bridge now has two spans side by side. Three lane
motorway on each.

Willmil
27th May 2009, 07:36
If memory serves Les MacBain was the Engine Super in Boeles at the time and when he saw the damage to the masts and derricks expressed extreme disappointment that the Clarke Chapman 5 and 12 tonne cargo cranes were still in one piece. To anybody who sailed on the Cora Class (especially Electricians) they'll know what he meant.

Regards Willmil

Billieboy
27th May 2009, 08:27
At the time I was working in Schiedam, I rarely had to use the bridge, as my route was always through the Eurotunnel. I do remember the incident however. The Boele yard closed soon afterwards, a pity, as it was the last, "Family", yard left at that end of the river.

China hand
27th May 2009, 18:45
If memory serves Les MacBain was the Engine Super in Boeles at the time and when he saw the damage to the masts and derricks expressed extreme disappointment that the Clarke Chapman 5 and 12 tonne cargo cranes were still in one piece. To anybody who sailed on the Cora Class (especially Electricians) they'll know what he meant.

Regards Willmil

Oh Yes, how VERY Yes; and not only leckies. Tandem up - Cross fingers.

Duncan112
27th May 2009, 20:43
Re Phillti's post #10 I remember being told by Charlie DeSilva who was chief at the time of the incident that a major contributing factor was the Pilots' reloctance to speak in English leading to the Master not realising that they were going under the wrong span of the bridge until too late.

chadburn
27th May 2009, 21:12
Ships and Bridges are like cars and lamposts they appear to have a "magnetic" attraction to each other! give me electric motor/gearboxes combi any time, far better than Hydraulic's.

John Cassels
28th May 2009, 09:00
Re Phillti's post #10 I remember being told by Charlie DeSilva who was chief at the time of the incident that a major contributing factor was the Pilots' reloctance to speak in English leading to the Master not realising that they were going under the wrong span of the bridge until too late.

Not sure I understand what you mean by this !.

Duncan112
2nd June 2009, 20:51
Not sure I understand what you mean by this !.

The two pilots apparently spoke to each other exclusively in Dutch and did not brief the Master in English, resulting in the Master and the rest of the bridge team not understanding what was happening until it was too late.

John Cassels
3rd June 2009, 08:31
Apologies if I appear ignorant , but I can't see why a lack of communication
in the English language would have had any bearing on this accident.

Charlie Stitt
3rd June 2009, 10:31
I think it would be prudent to wait a couple of days to hear from Phillti ,who has extracts of the court case, as to exactly what happened, and why. He is due back Home in the next few days I believe. I look forward to hearing the true account of the catastrophe. (Thumb)

China hand
3rd June 2009, 18:16
I think it would be prudent to wait a couple of days to hear from Phillti ,who has extracts of the court case, as to exactly what happened, and why. He is due back Home in the next few days I believe. I look forward to hearing the true account of the catastrophe. (Thumb)

Yes indeed, then ALL the armchair experts will be able to say what went wrong with the true account.(==D)

Phillti
8th June 2009, 15:37
Some interesting comments!!

and as they say "the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction".

The 2 pilots speaking in Dutch did have an impact on the courts final ruling although this was not the cause of the collision.
Flwg excerts quoted from a Port Authority article on this case.
"Article 12 of the Netherlands Pilotage act exempts the state of the Netherlands from all liability for damages caused by its personnel involved in the performance of Pilotage services." This basically says tough luck the vessel owner is responsible for all damages even though the pilot was effectively conning the vessel. Luckily though for Bank Line this was superseded in a later ruling of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands whereby " the more fundamental principle that damages caused in the course of their employment by employees are the responsibility of the employer. Consequently, the State of the Netherlands cannot successfully claim compensation for damage it suffers as a consequence of negligence of its own pilot." Against this legal back ground then, Bank Line's legal team were successful in defending against compensation costs for damage to the bridge itself as they argued that by talking in Dutch to the tug boats through the VHF the pilots had effectively assumed a certain amount of responsibility for the manoeuvres of the vessel.
The court accepted this ruling and I am led to believe this was the first case ever (apart from the Panama Canal) whereby a pilot had been held partially liable for costs. Unfortunately though the damage to the vessel had to be picked up by Bank Lines own insurance.

Now onto the cause of the collision. At the time and right up until recently I had always thought the collision was due to the pilots lining the vessel up for the open span incorrectly. Ie for some reason they lined up for the wrong section of the bridge on their approach and this was not noticed until the last moment due to the poor visibility. This however was not the case. At only 3 ship lengths from the bridge the Forthbank was actually perfectly lined up to pass thru the open section. The error was related to her speed. Normally vessels passed thru this bridge opening at no more than 3 - 3.5 Kts. This was also the speed the pilot and master had estimated the vessel was going in their statements. However from the movement book (dam cadets) the state appointed expert reconstructed the passage from the dry dock to the moment of impact at the bridge and calculated the vessels actual speed was more likely 6.5 Kts over the bottom. Furthermore the state appointed expert was able to prove through some fairly complex simulations that at that speed (6.5 Kts) and due to the vessels close proximity to the northern bank the vessel would succumb to severe bank suction effects which would alter the vessels course significantly to port. Also at that speed the effects of the bank suction could not be compensated for in time by counter stb. helm to avert the collision. Ie the vessel was doomed to hit the bridge well before anyone knew it was going to happen. Lastly the suction effect (course alteration) was first noticed by the control tower on the bridge it self and not by anyone on the vessel. This could have been because the vessel was being conned by Magnetic compass as the Gyro was under repair, so the tell tale click, click, click......... did not happen as the vessel sheared to port in thick fog. This delay also meant that emergency full astern was too late and could not stop the Forthbank from passing right under the bridge right up to the funnel.

For those interested I have a copy of the full article in PDF format which I can pass on, its a bit long winded to post here.

Rgds


Tim Phillips

Alistair Macnab
8th June 2009, 15:50
Tim...
Thank you for your report. It makes fascinating reading. On to another topic: did you see any remains of "Roybank" or hear any accounts of her stranding when you were in Greece?

China hand
8th June 2009, 21:29
Interesting indeed.
Some years ago I was Deep Sea Pilot on a Sealand vessel and, after handing over to the Rotterdam Pilot was told that ALL VHF coms must be in English, this after strong representations from the Sealand rep in Rotterdam, in order that the American Master and bridge staff could be fully aware of all and any information available. This was in the '90's, and some years after the Forthbank incident. It was also during the berthing process to Pernis, and not in the upper reaches.

John Cassels
14th June 2009, 18:57
Strange , have never heard of VHF communications being in anything other
than English with the exception of coastal and harbour craft.

Ironingman
8th March 2012, 22:52
I was a student volunteer at the Rotterdam Missions to Seamen, and saw on Lloyds List that Forthbank was down at Boelnes. I remember it was quite a long drive down there on my little motor-scooter, and was shocked to see what a mess the boat was in. I wasn't allowed on board, but asked if I could take some photos...they said I could, on condition that I didn't publish them! I have them still, with a note saying that there was 400,000 of damage to the boat. This would have been a heck of a lot of money in those days, I think?!