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A report released today by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has found that limited visibility in heavy rain was a significant factor in a collision involving the Australian fishing vessel Chinderah Star and the Liberian flag bulk carrier Silver Bin.

The collision occurred at 1209 local time on 25 March 2000, 0.6 nautical miles west of Chapman Island in the inner route of Queensland's Great Barrier Reef.

Approximately 24 minutes before the collision, Chinderah Star was heading north when its skipper identified Silver Bin, 8.6 nautical miles to the north and heading south. The skipper realised that the two vessels would pass at close quarters in a narrow section of the shipping channel but did not make radio contact with the ship or alter the vessel's course.

Twelve minutes later Chinderah Star and Silver Bin were enveloped in heavy rain when a tropical rainsquall entered the shipping channel. The crew of Silver Bin had not identified Chinderah Star before entering the rainsquall and despite the estimated visibility of 160 metres neither vessel reduced speed or sounded any audible signals.

The report concluded that the crew of both vessels did not properly assess the risks of collision in the heavy rain, with the limitations of marine radar in such conditions being a contributing factor in the collision.

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 the collision between Silver Bin and Chinderah Star emphasises the importance of maintaining an effective lookout in all conditions and navigating at a safe speed in conditions of reduced visibility.

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Last update 01 April 2011