Errors 'led to submarine grounding'
A series of errors contributed to the grounding of a nuclear-powered submarine off the west coast of Scotland more than two years ago, a report has found.
HMS Astute was on sea trials when it became stuck near Skye on October 22, 2010 and ended up marooned for several hours.
Its commander Andy Coles, 47, was later removed from command of the vessel.
A service inquiry into the grounding, published on Monday, found there were a variety of causes for the incident. The report said: "The root causes of the grounding were non-adherence to correct procedures for the planning and execution of the navigation combined with a significant lack of appreciation by the Officer of the Watch (OOW) of the proximity of danger. However, a number of additional causal factors were present, including some deficiencies with equipment."
Rear Admiral Ian Corder, head of the Submarine Service, said that the organisation had learnt from the incident, which happened as the submarine prepared for a boat transfer at 6.30am. The report found that there was "no dedicated plan or special briefing" for the transfer.
By 6.10am a number of "significant items" were still not on the submarine's bridge, which the report found contributed to the grounding. The missing items were the handheld VHF radio and bridge chart while the secondary radar was not yet working. The absence of the radio meant those on the submarine's bridge could not communicate with transfer vessel MV Omagh. If they had been able to communicate with MV Omagh, they could have asked that vessel to adjust course so the submarine could turn to port into safe water earlier.
The report found "lack of early communication" with MV Omagh contributed to the grounding. There was also a failure in the internal communications system which led to a two-minute delay in passing an order. The "defects and shortcomings" of the internal communications system were said to be a "causal factor" in the grounding. The submarine's rudder was damaged during the grounding but estimates of repair costs have yet to be completed.
At 6.19am the Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW) asked the OOW to reduce speed and alter course to the north but the OOW said he could not because of the position of MV Omagh, and did not consider the option of turning to starboard. The submarine grounded at 6.35am.
The OOW was criticised in the report, which said his preparations for and conduct of the watch "fell short of the standards required to maintain submarine safety". It stated: "It is the view of the Service Inquiry (SI) team that his lack of situation awareness (no radar or chart), no previous experience of operating in the area in the dark and his incomplete preparations before proceeding to the bridge were the major causal factor in the grounding. He, as OOW, was responsible for the safe navigation of the submarine."
The report team said that if the POOW's recommendations had been followed in a "timely manner" they would have prevented the grounding. They also found that the navigational plan fell short of requirements and was a "causal factor" in the grounding.