Monday, 22 April 2013

Oliva crash could have been avoided if the vessel had ECDIS installed

It has emerged this month that MS Oliva could have been saved using an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) that could have warned the crew they were about to run aground off the shore of Nightingale Island.

The 2011 crash happened on the 16th March at Spinners Point. According to the investigation the second mate drew up a passage plan for the first leg of the voyage which would take the 75,000-dwt bulker form the Brazilian port of Santos to China. Waypoints were then plotted on a paper chart and were intended to take the vessel 10 nautical miles south of the Tristan Da Cunha Islands.

On approach to the islands the second mate saw a large echo on the radar but assumed it to be “a rain cloud or an iceberg”, the report said. At around 5am the chief mate made the same mistake, identifying a large echo directly ahead as a “heavy storm cloud”. The hazard was in fact Nightingale Island. The ship, carrying a cargo of soya beans and 1,700 tonnes of fuel oil, then ran aground, causing serious implications for the islands and its inhabitants with widespread pollution and its important lobster-farming industry closing for nearly two years. The vessel would then eventually break up, and was declared a constructive total loss.
From the investigation, it is clear that an ECDIS on board would have prevented the devastating grounding in 2011. The ECDIS would have recognised their mandatory points causing an audible alarm to be sounded when the danger ahead was seen in the ships path.

With ECDIS on board the crew of 22 could have plotted the entire route on the chart, with visible clear instructions on where dangers lay. This disaster and many more could have been avoided.


  1. It is not clear in your post whether the crash ship was installed with ECDIS, or not?

  2. Hi Captain Supriyono,

    ECDIS was not installed on MS Oliva.

    The Marine Safety Investigation Unit of Malta has ruled that Oliva ran aground because the planned course the vessel was following on the plotting sheet was found to have taken the vessel directly over Nightingale Island. The ECDIS would have alarmed to warn of impending navigational danger.

    TMS Bulkers now require all officers on board to complete computer based training in voyage planning and bridge team management.

    Please see the link to the report published on

    Thank you

  3. Had the vessel had been fitted with ECDIS and only IF its officers had received proper training in its use, especially the anti-grounding functions, might the vessel have been saved from this unfortunate incident. It is not by virtue of carrying ECDIS that ships are prevented from running aground - safe navigation with ECDIS, purely as an aid to navigation, depends largely on ECDIS training received, both generic AND type-specific. It also depends on the extent to which ships' officers are familiar with every aspect of passage planning, be this on paper or electronic charts. Many officers who attend ECDIS courses these days, after having used the equipment on board, still do not know of ECDIS limitations as an anti-grounding tool.

  4. Totally agree with you on this point Ivor. ECDIS has the potenital to improve safety of navigation BUT only if proper, adequte, quality training has been received by those using ECDIS. Without effective training ECDIS is useless.

    However, training in a classroom or online is simply not enough to say that one is competent in the use of ECDIS. Familiarity over time is the best way of becoming competent and comfortable and the advocation of early adoption of ECDIS should be the way forward.

    Martek Marine's iECDIS due to be launched this year offers Professional+ private charts for this very purpose. Even if your compliance deadline for ECDIS implementation is not for a couple of years by fitting now and using the private charts in conjunction with paper charts will allow ship officers to gain familiarity with ECDIS navigation and really undertstand how it works. This way it won't be such a culture shock to go from paper chart navigation to digital navigation.


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