Return to site

Safety Culture on WAKASHIO resembled SWISS CHEESE

MV Wakashio, that ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius
French Army command/Handout via REUTERS

· Loss Prevention,Focus on what matter,Leadership,Safety Culture

Leaders need to lead their team by action and not just talk. Team will do what they see, but not necessarily what they hear. Negligent and complacent leaders shouldn't expect their team to deliver their best as Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel

Rare combination of Master, C/Officer and other Officers and Ratings on board the Wakashio and their safety culture resembling the holes of SWISS CHEESE seem to have resulted in this casualty. If even one of them had raised concern and alerted the DPA/Technical Manager/Crew Manager, this accident could have been avoided.

Master (59) , with almost 30 years command experience with no previous adverse records, didn't feel risky to order to route the ship 1.5 nm ~ 2 nm close to the reef. If the Master wasn't so experienced and hadn't commanded 20~25 vessels:

1) he may have been less overconfident and complacent; and

2) may not have left the bridge to the crew mess room for attending the birthday party and having a drink;

while the ship under his command was navigating 1.5 nm ~ 2 nm close to the reef.

Leaders can't over delegate their responsibilities blindly and resort to blaming their deputy or others for the undesirable consequences, later. Leaders need to maintain situational awareness on their team and need to smell the sense of responsibility and diligence of each key individual in the team and mentor, coach, delegate accordingly.

As the Master of the ship, he didn't assess the C/Officer's professional diligence and simply over relied on him, while setting a very bad example to enjoy the party at a crucial time, rather than staying put on the bridge and having a drink later, once the vessel was well clear of navigational hazards.

Leaders can't expect their team to do pristine and diligent work, while they don't lead by example. Leaders need to work much more harder and diligently and set an example for their team. People follow what they see. They don't follow what leaders talk, but what they do.

No doubt the C/Officer in his late 40s didn't need to navigate the ship on to the reef, with his vast experience as the 2nd in command of the ship. It seems he followed the bad leadership of his leader, the Master, who was seated in the pilot’s chair using his phone trying to get a signal when the vessel went aground as per C/Officer's testimony in court, as reported in the media?

If C/Officer had focused on what matters - safe navigation of the vessel - he didn't have to end up in the court room. But with a prevailing on-board safety culture resembling swiss cheese, all safety barriers and established safe guards against loss prevention was broken in this case.

Interesting to see the full casualty investigation report, lessons learned and preventive actions from the Panama Flag State Administration.