Wednesday, May 22, 2013

RAF Valley helicopter technical issues 'delayed ship rescue'

BBC Website 22 May 2013

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued a number of recommendations after the MV Carrier ran aground off Llanddulas, Conwy in April 2012.  The Antigua and Barbuda-registered vessel had been carrying stone when it ran aground at night, close to the main A55 coast road.

Technical problems with all four rescue helicopters at RAF Valley on Anglesey delayed the rescue of a stricken ship's crew, an accident report has said.  It was 'extremely unusual' for all RAF Valley helicopters to be unservicable.

Two lifeboats, a Royal Navy helicopter from Prestwick, South Ayrshire and an RAF helicopter from Leconfield in North Yorkshire were involved in the rescue in heavy seas.

The report found the ship's master's unfamiliarity with UK maritime weather forecast terminology led to a delay in his departure from the Raynes quarry jetty in Llanddulas.

This in turn meant wind speeds had risen dramatically while the ship was moored at the jetty.
When it tried to move away from the jetty it was caught and carried onto the nearby shore.
The accident report concluded:
  • RAF staff reported it was extremely unusual for all four of the RAF Valley helicopters to be unserviceable with such substantial technical faults.
  • The MV Carrier's master, one of seven Polish nationals on board, was not sure of the meaning of some of the words used in UK maritime weather forecasts.
  • Jetty staff allowed the ship to continue loading despite the bad weather conditions.
  • None of the staff at the jetty had significant maritime experience.
  • "It is concerning that there may be other harbours like Raynes Jetty around the UK coast whose operators consider themselves outside the normal scope of port operations".
The MAIB said the rescue was delayed primarily because of the technical problems with all four helicopters at RAF Valley, while snowstorms stopped a helicopter from RAF Leconfield launching immediately.
The report added the Leconfield crew was "obliged to make an extremely hazardous flight in very poor conditions across the width of the country".

It said the performance of all the helicopter crews was "extremely commendable".

"However, the risks they faced during the rescue were exacerbated by the lack of more locally-available search and rescue (SAR) helicopters," it said.

"It was extremely fortunate the situation on board Carrier remained stable for long enough to enable all the crew to be rescued without injury."

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has also been asked to work with the Met Office to ensure the terminology used in weather broadcasts are "clearly understood by mariners and other users of the service".
Shore-based staff also needed a "good understanding of maritime weather forecasting" the report added.

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