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Failure to keep a proper lookout by either vessel has been identified as the immediate cause of the ninth collision in five years between a fishing vessel and a ship off the Australian coast.

In the early hours of 21 August 2003, the fishing vessel Jenabar collided with the bulk carrier Lancelot off Diamond Head on the New South Wales coast. The report on the collision by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) also identifies that over-reliance on board Lancelot on information from the automatic radar plotting aid contributed to the collision.

On this occasion nobody was hurt, though the fishing boat sustained damage and had to return to Forster, where it arrived safely.

The collision occurred while Jenabar, in company with three other fishing vessels, was heading for fishing grounds to the north of Forster. On board Jenabar, the deckhand on watch was seated at a table in the wheelhouse.

The mate on the bulk carrier, which was southbound for Newcastle, was using the automatic radar plotting aid (ARPA). Despite indications from the ARPA that the fishing vessels were passing clear, they were in fact on collision or near-collision courses.

After the collision, the ship turned around to assist the fishing vessel but, on learning that assistance was not required, resumed its passage to Newcastle.

Since July 1999, the ATSB has released nine reports on similar collisions. It has also released two safety bulletins for crews of ships and fishing vessels with advice on the avoidance of collisions. The reports and safety bulletins have emphasised the need for a proper lookout and the limitations of radar and the report on this latest collision concludes that:

  • The mate on Lancelot did not check the compass bearings of the approaching vessels to assess the risk of collision;
  • The moderate seas and the size and construction of Jenabar would have had an adverse effect on its radar detectability; and,
  • The deckhand on watch on Jenabar at the time of the collision was not keeping an adequate or effective lookout.

The report's recommendations include the need for:

  • Vessels to keep a proper lookout at all times;
  • The National Marine Safety Committee (NMSC) and State and Territory marine authorities to review the minimum qualifications for watchkeepers on fishing vessels;
  • NMSC and State and Territory marine authorities to ensure that guidance on procedures for watchkeeping and safety of navigation applies to all vessels.

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