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Precis File
SHIP NAME: Maersk Holyhead, Pequot KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 2
type A
volume 550m3
dead 0

The Cargo Law site has a rivetting set of photos taken from the bridge of the Pequot. The pictures appear to show the loaded (11,200 m3 propane) LPG carrier Maersk Holyhead outbound in Lake Maracaibo turn to port in front of the inbound bulk carrier Pequot, loaded with coal. It is daylight (1745 local). Conditions are Beaufort 2, visibility is good. The very slight chop is perpendicular to the Pequot. The light wind is probably from the South, which is later confirmed by the smoke from the short-lived fire. The MH appears to be doing roughly 8 knots, cant say anything about the speed of the Pequot. The encounter is said to take place between buoys 53 and 55 in the channel.

The impact is dead on the Pequot's bow, and on the MH's starboard anchor, fortunately forward of the propane tanks. There is a flash of fire, but apparently it put itself out. Maybe flammable stores in one of the ship's focsles.

Cargo law says a forward bunker tank on the Holyhead was holed above and below the waterline and 550 m3 spilled. The after impact photos show a slick which may be moving south. Strangely, the Pequot bow shows more damage than the MH's.

A Venezuelan source is quoted as saying that the Maersk vessel appears to have lost direction in a sector of the channel subject to a strong current.

source CTX
type D

The Venezuelan explanation seems quite unlikely. The light wind is blowing out of the south. After anchoring both loaded vessels appear to be heading into the wind. There appears to be little or no current, and judging from the slick what current there is appears to be southerly.

The damage on the Holyhead side extends well aft of the FP area; the two ships may have pivoted intio each other. In any case, the double sides probably prevented a breach of a forward propane tank, which could easily have been a disaster.

The track in the first photo shows a fairly sharp port turn, long before the ships could have interacted. This could be some sort of bank effect. But, until we see the results of a real investigation (which will probably never happen), CTX feels by far the most likely cause is some sort of steering problem on the Maersk Holyhead.

ITOPF claims the spill was only 100 to 300 m3, but a tank containing 550 m3 of bunkers damaged above and below the waterline will quickly lose almost all its contents.