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Anchoring too close to each other and without due regard to the changeable weather conditions in the anchorage off Newcastle were the major causes of the collision between two bulk carriers, according to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation report released today.
The ATSB report into the incident states that at 0939 on 24 June 2005, the bulk carrier Pilsum collided with another bulk carrier, China Steel Growth, while dragging its anchor. The two ships were anchored off the New South Wales port of Newcastle.

On the morning of 24 June, a southerly weather front came through the anchorage. At 0900 on 24 June, the officer of the watch on Pilsum detected that the ship was dragging its anchor. The master was informed and he decided to weigh anchor and depart the anchorage.

Pilsum's crew encountered difficulties recovering the anchor. While trying to weigh anchor Pilsum drifted towards China Steel Growth, which was anchored to the north.

At 0935 Pilsum pitched heavily, the propeller came clear of the water and the main engine was shut down by the overspeed trip. Pilsum's main engine was restarted, however at 0939 Pilsum collided with China Steel Growth. The two ships moved apart and made contact a second time before Pilsum finally made its way clear.

The report concludes that the ships in the anchorage off Newcastle on 24 June 2005 were anchored too close to each other. Pilsum did not have enough anchor cable laid out, and the officer of the watch did not fully utilise all available equipment while keeping the anchor watch.

The report also concludes that the advice to masters in the Australian Pilot publication does not sufficiently highlight the shortcomings of the Newcastle anchorage in adverse weather conditions.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the ATSB's internet site.

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Last update 01 April 2011