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A report released today by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that a significant factor contributing to a collision involving the Australian recreational craft Chester and the Chinese bulk carrier Hai Teng off Mooloolaba, Queensland, on 19 March 2000, was the absence of a lookout on one vessel and an ineffective lookout on the other.

Since 1 July 1999, the ATSB has investigated six collisions involving ships and fishing vessels or small craft. Such collisions keep occurring despite the widespread circulation of ATSB reports and safety bulletins as well as media coverage.

The report on Chester and Hai Teng, with two safety bulletins attached, emphasises the importance of maintaining an effective lookout at all times on all vessels, as well as the fact that small targets, such as Chester, can be difficult to detect in clutter on radar displays.

Chester was anchored about 28 miles off Mooloolaba, with its crew of two asleep, when Hai Teng collided with it in fine conditions shortly after midnight on 18 March. The bulk carrier was heading north from Newcastle, New South Wales, for China at the time and the watchkeepers on the bridge did not detect the small craft and were not aware of the collision. The collision caused minor damage to Chester, but its crew was not injured and the vessel returned safely to Mooloolaba.

A contributing factor to the accident was that the bulb for the anchor light on Chester, which was designed for use as a road vehicle's stop and tail light, was not appropriate for use in an anchor light. The light should have been visible for at least two miles, but in certain sectors might only have been visible at half a mile.

In addition, Chester was anchored in shipping lanes and its small size might have made it difficult to detect either visually or by radar.

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Last update 01 April 2011