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On the evening of 6 July 1985, the bulk carrier Iron Cumberland, in ballast, was on a northbound passage of the inner two-way route of the Great Barrier Reef. A licensed Coastal Pilot had been embarked off Cairns for the passage.

After the vessel had rounded Clack Reef & was steadied on the 270 course across Princess Charlotte Bay, the Pilot left the bridge, to rest for about 45 minutes. Hearing the pilot leave the bridge, the Master left his cabin & went to the chartroom, where the Watch Officer informed him that there were a number of fishing vessels up ahead.

The Master went through to the wheelhouse, looked at the radar & saw that there were two targets, one on each bow at two miles distance. He asked the watch officer to inform him of the situation. A whistle signal was made & course was altered to port, to provide a greater passing distance from the fishing vessel to starboard. However, as Iron Cumberland came up on the fishing vessel, the fishing vessel was seen to sheer towards Iron Cumberland. Despite evasive action being taken, the fishing vessel came in contact with Iron Cumberland in way of holds 5 & 6.

The Skiupper was on watch in the wheelhouse of the fishing vessel Saltfiord, which was trawling on a course of around 225. Using the VHF, he was talking to another fishing vessel. His first awareness of the close proximity of another vessel was after his vessel shuddered & he went out on deck to see what was happening. Although Saltfiord suffered damage to the port fishing boom & deck fittings, it did not require assistance from the Iron Cumberland.


Those on the bridge of Iron Cumberland did not keep a proper lookout in that proper use was not made of the radar, assumptions were made on scanth information & timely, substantial action was not taken to avoid a close quarters situation.

The absence of a passage plan & the failure to properly interpret information on the chart were factors which contributed to inappropriate avoiding action being taken.

The Skipper of Saltfiord did not keep a proper lookout.

The bridge working lights used by the fishing vessel impaired the visibility of the prescribed fishing lights.

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General details
Date: 06 July 1985 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: N/A  
Location:Great Barrier Reef Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland Occurrence type: Collision 
Release date: 01 January 1986  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel 1 details
Vessel: Iron Cumberland D356551 
Flag: Hg Kg 
Type of Operation: Bulk carrier 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Newcastle, NSW
Departure time:N/A
Destination:Groote Eylandt, Qld
Vessel 2 details
Vessel: Saltfiord 
Flag: Aus 
Type of Operation: Prawn trawler 
Damage to Vessel: Substantial 
Departure point:N/A
Departure time:N/A
Destination:Weipa, Qld
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Last update 18 May 2016