The ATSB has found that there was no effective lookout being maintained on board either a fishing vessel or a bulk carrier when the two vessels collided off the South Australian coast on 23 April 2007, the latest in more than 50 such collisions investigated.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation again found that the fishing vessel was possibly difficult to detect, either visually or by radar, because of its timber construction, lack of a radar reflector, paint scheme and the prevailing weather conditions.

On the morning of 23 April, the Australian fishing vessel Peter Crombie was at anchor about 30 miles south of Robe, South Australia and the vessel's three crew members were below decks sleeping. The Panamanian registered bulk carrier Silky Ocean had sailed from Port Kembla, New South Wales, on 21 April, and was en-route to Ardrossan, South Australia.

The weather was fine with a partly cloudy sky and good visibility. There was a swell of about one metre from the east-southeast and seas of about 1.5 m. The wind was from the east-southeast at 12 to 18 knots.

At about 1150, Silky Ocean was on a course of 311(T) when it collided with Peter Crombie. Silky Ocean's bridge watchkeeper had not detected Peter Crombie either visually or on the ship's radar.

After the collision, Peter Crombie's skipper tried to contact the ship using his vessel's VHF radio. However, Silky Ocean's bridge watchkeeper did not acknowledge the call and made no attempt to communicate with the fishing vessel.

While Silky Ocean had sustained no damage as a result of the collision, Peter Crombie's hull had been damaged and the vessel was taking on water. Fortunately, the fishing vessel's bilge pumps were able to keep up with the ingress of water.

Peter Crombie's skipper notified the vessel's owners of the collision and then set a course for Robe. By 1700, the vessel was all fast alongside the wharf in Robe.

The ATSB is concerned that this type of collision continues to occur in Australian waters, sometimes leading to serious injury or fatality; and has issued five safety advisory notices with the aim of preventing similar incidents.

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

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Last update 01 April 2011