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The failure of officers to use modern navigation bridge management principles was the major factor in the grounding of the Bahamas registered passenger ship Astor during the ship's departure from Townsville at around 7 pm on 26 February 2004, according to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation report released today.

The ATSB report into the Astor grounding released today states that the ship grounded on its port side as it was turning from Townsville harbour into Platypus Channel. The ship heeled about three degrees to starboard and, after about three minutes, slid clear of the bank without assistance and continued out of the channel. No injuries or pollution resulted from the grounding.

The report concludes that, after the Astor left its berth, the ship's master did not accept the advice of the Townsville harbour pilot on board. By failing to take the pilot's advice, the master incorrectly positioned the ship for a turn to starboard into Platypus Channel, part of the approach channel to the port, resulting in the ship running aground during the turn. The report also concludes that the pilot was unable to understand the Ukrainian language of the officers and crew on the navigation bridge.

The ship's managers stated six days after the grounding that an onboard investigation had found a steering malfunction caused the grounding. This was the first time a steering gear malfunction had been mentioned by ship's staff or shore management to any Australian authorities or organisations.

The ATSB carried out a thorough examination of the ship's steering system and consulted with the manufacturers of the steering equipment. The investigation has been unable to determine the degree, if any, to which the reported malfunction contributed to the grounding.

The investigation was also complicated by the fact that information from the Astor's 'black box' data recorder was not backed up immediately after the grounding and by the fact that company procedures were not followed with respect to the keeping of bridge records.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the website, or obtained from the ATSB by telephoning (02) 6274 6478 or 1800 020 616.

Media contact: 1800 020 616
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Last update 01 April 2011