Marine safety investigations & reports

Collision between cargo vessel River Boyne & fv Babirusa

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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About 0134 on 20 June 1985 the Australian registered bulk carrier River Boyne of 51994 gross tons, on passage from Weipa to Gladstone with a cargo of bauxite, collided with the Australian registered fishing vessel Babirusa, on passage from Cairns to the Gulf of Carpentaria, in approximate position 14° 18' S 114° 39' E. There was no injury to any person and the only damage sustained was to the starboard outrigger boom and the sternlight on the Babirusa.

Having established that the Babirusa required no assistance, the River Boyne continued its voyage to Gladstone. The Babirusa returned to Cairns for repairs.


(The Rules referred to in this section of the report are those contained in the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 as amended).

As noted above there are some differences in the versions of the event as recalled by the principal witnesses. In the absence of independent evidence, these differences have not been resolved, therefore the full facts of the events leading up to the incident can not be determined. Nevertheless it may be concluded that:

  1. the collision would appear to have been immediately caused by the action of Mr Lawson on the Babirusa in altering course into the path of the River Boyne and that Mr Lawson: (a) failed to keep a proper lookout as required by Rule 5, in that he did not make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision; and in particular (b) failed to determine if risk of collision existed as required by Rule 7. In the prevailing conditions the simplest and probably most effective means of determining risk of collision would have been for Mr Lawson to watch the compass bearing of the River Boyne;
  2. even if risk of collision had existed prior to the Babirusa's first alteration to port, which almost certainly was not the case, an alteration to port was entirely inappropriate avoiding action;
  3. Mr Lawson's failure to properly determine risk of collision and take appropriate action can be attributed to his lack of knowledge and experience. However, Mr Lawson should have been aware of his own limitations and called the Skipper earlier.
  4. the Babirusa was improperly exhibiting lights impaired the visibility and distinctive character of its navigation lights;
  5. Mr Woodfield, Second Officer of the River Boyne failed to keep a proper lookout as required by Rule 5 in that he failed to ascertain by radar the course and speed of the approaching vessel and thus neglected "by all available means in the prevailing circumstances and conditions ... to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision". Although Mr Woodfield, by watching the compass bearing of the Babirusa, properly determined that risk of collision did not exist up to the time he went to fix the River Boyne's position by radar observation, I consider that, had he determined that the Babirusa was heading towards him rather that in the same direction, he probably would have continued to observe the Babirusa carefully and would thus have detected its alteration of course earlier;
  6. that the positions plotted on the River Boyne's chart at 0100 and 0111 were substantially correct and that the collision occurred in the vicinity of, latitude 14° 18'.4S longitude 144°39'.2E;
  7. the Second Officer of the River Boyne was properly qualified and competent to be left in sole charge of the watch. No blame for the collision rests with the Master or the pilot for leaving him in sole charge of the watch;
  8. that both vessels were seaworthy at the time of collision
  9. following the collision the Master of the River Boyne took appropriate measures to ascertain the Babirusa was not in need of assistance.
Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 259KB]
General details
Date: 20 June 1985   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0134 EST    
Location: Great Barrier Reef    
State: Queensland    
Release date: 01 December 1985   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel 1 details

Vessel 1 details
Vessel River Boyne  
Flag Aus  
IMO D850245  
Type of operation Bulk carrier  
Damage to vessel Nil  
Departure point Weipa, Qld  
Departure time N/A  
Destination Gladstone, Qld  

Vessel 2 details

Vessel 2 details
Vessel Babirusa  
Flag Aus  
Type of operation Fishing vessel  
Damage to vessel Minor  
Departure point Cairns, Qld  
Departure time N/A  
Destination Gulf of Carpentaria, Qld  
Last update 18 May 2016