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Failure to keep proper lookouts aboard the Liberian woodchip carrier Craig The Pioneer and the Australian prawn trawler May Bell II resulted in a collision between the two vessels east of Newcastle at 0157 on 9 October 1999, according to the report of the investigation into the accident released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) today.

The collision occurred in fine weather conditions as the crew of the trawler was recovering its nets. The bow of the trawler was damaged, but its crew suffered no injuries and the vessel returned safely to Sydney. The trawler was well illuminated at the time, but watchkeepers on the ship had not sighted it visually or by radar and denied any knowledge of the incident.

An analysis of paint samples taken from both vessels, made with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police, led to the conclusion that the ship had collided with the fishing vessel.

In addition, the report concluded that neither vessel was keeping a proper lookout and that the vision of the crew of the trawler was significantly impaired by the bright lights in use at the time.

The report highlights the Inspector of Marine Accidents' concern that there have been fourteen other collisions involving fishing vessels and trading ships in Australian waters. It states that radar reflectors or similar devices fitted to fishing vessels would increase the likelihood of their being detected by ships' radars.

The ATSB and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority are conducting trials of active radar reflectors with the aim of encouraging their use in fishing vessels.

The ATSB report is available from this website Report 151.

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Last update 29 January 2014