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An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation found that the collision between the Australian registered tug Tom Tough and the Panamanian registered bulk carrier Global Peace resulted in a spill of approximately 25 cubic metres of oil in Gladstone Harbour on 24 January 2006.

At about 2130 on the evening of 24 January, Global Peace entered Gladstone harbour for the transit to the Clinton Coal Terminal. The plan was for the ship to berth at Clinton number three berth with the assistance of three z-peller tugs.

As the ship was approaching the berth, the pilot asked all three tugs to stop pushing and to lay alongside. The master of the aft tug, Tom Tough, laid the tug alongside the ship, with the tug at an angle of about 15 degrees to the ship's side. The tugs bow was in line with the front of the ships accommodation.

At about 2354, Tom Toughs starboard main engine unexpectedly shutdown. The tug's stern swung sharply to starboard and the starboard quarter made heavy contact with the side of the ship, piercing the ship's shell plating.

The tug had punctured the ship's port heavy fuel oil tank. Oil immediately began to flow into the harbour. The flow of oil continued for about 45 minutes.

According to the ATSB investigation report, a cracked starboard main engine clutch oil pipe resulted in the tug's clutch system being emptied of oil. The resultant loss of system pressure activated the main engine shutdown.

The report concludes that the tug's procedures and associated risk analysis had not adequately addressed the risks associated with the engineer spending protracted periods of time out of the engine room, the engine room alarm and monitoring system did not adequately alert the tug master to the engine shutdown, and the towage company had given little thought to the possibility of further fatigue related failures after the failure of the clutch oil pump discharge pipe fitted to the port main engine in February 2002.

The investigation also found that the tugs aft fender arrangement did not provide adequate protection to the tug or the ship and that the ship's port deep fuel oil tank was not protected from a collision.

The ATSB found that the towage company had no system of professional development in place to ensure the ongoing training and performance monitoring of tug masters.

The ATSB has made several safety recommendations with the aim of preventing further incidents of this type.

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Last update 01 April 2011