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Failing to keep a proper lookout was the major cause of yet another collision between a trading ship and a commercial fishing vessel, according to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation report released today.

The ATSB report into the incident states that, at 0535 (local time) on 15 April 2005, the Greek registered bulk carrier Spartia and the Western Australian cray fishing vessel Hannah Lee collided 17 nautical miles west of Cape Bouvard. Spartias crew had detected the fishing vessel about 20 minutes prior to the collision, using the ships radars. They had assessed that a risk of collision existed but, as Hannah Lee was on their port side, they maintained Spartias course and speed, in accordance with the international collision regulations. Hannah Lees skipper was preoccupied with keeping his vessel on course and had failed to see Spartia in the time leading up to the collision.

When it became obvious to Spartia's bridge team that Hannah Lee was not going to give way, the master ordered avoiding action. This manoeuvre was ineffective and Hannah Lee hit Spartia a short time later. No one was injured in the collision and there was no pollution.

The report concludes that the lookout being kept by the skipper of Hannah Lee in the period leading up to the collision was manifestly inadequate. In addition, his judgement, actions and situational awareness, with regard to what was happening around his vessel, were affected by fatigue. This was probably as a result of his work routine and other activities he had undertaken in the week prior to the collision. The report recommends that State and Territory marine authorities consider reviewing current work practices on fishing vessels, with a view establishing crew fatigue management guidelines.

The report also concludes that the action taken by the crew of Spartia to avoid the collision, when Hannah Lee was only one nautical mile away, was too little, too late.

The ATSB has investigated 23 collisions between ships and fishing vessels since 1990. The failure to keep a proper lookout was identified as a factor in each of the collisions.

The report (Marine Safety Investigation Report 211) can be obtained from the website.

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Last update 29 January 2014