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Failure to keep a proper lookout, a faulty radio and fatigue resulted in a collision between two vessels off the coast of Western Australian on 18 January 2001, according to an investigation report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau today.

The report states that the collision occurred at 0435 local time, 14 miles off the coast when the rock lobster fishing vessel, Lipari, struck the side of the Hong Kong flag bulk carrier, Handymariner. The ship sustained no damage in the incident but the fishing vessel was holed on the starboard bow above the waterline. There were no injuries sustained by the crew of either vessel.

Lipari had left Port Bouvard, south of Fremantle, earlier on the morning of the incident to check lobster pots set some 36 miles offshore. Shortly after leaving port, the vessel's two deckhands had gone below to sleep while the skipper stayed in the wheelhouse with the vessel's autopilot engaged.

The mate on watch on the south-bound Handymariner had detected Lipari on radar some 25 minutes before the collision. He had attempted to call the fishing vessel on marine radio but Lipari's radio was not working and so his calls went unheard. The mate then attempted to warn the fishing boat using a signal lamp and the ship's whistle but still received no response. Lipari had maintained a steady course and speed towards the ship. When the collision was imminent, the mate had altered the ship's course to starboard.

Just before the two vessels collided, the skipper in Lipari's wheelhouse had heard the ship's whistle. He realised at that point that there was a ship dead ahead and so turned the fishing vessel's helm hard to port to try to avoid the collision.

The report concludes that the look-out maintained on Lipari was inadequate, with the lack of an operational VHF marine radio on the vessel also contributing to the incident. The investigation also revealed that it was probable that Lipari's skipper was suffering from some affects of chronic fatigue which may have led to his poor situational awareness and poor look-out in the time leading up to the collision.

The report recommends that all commercial vessels operating offshore be required to carry operational VHF radio equipment and that State and Territory marine authorities review work practices and manning levels on fishing vessels to establish guidelines for the management of crew fatigue.

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Last update 01 April 2011