Marine safety investigations & reports

Grounding of Alam Indah in the Great Barrier Reef

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On the 2nd September 1986 at 0205 hours Eastern Standard Time the Malaysian general purpose Freedom type cargo vessel ALAM INDAH of 9094 gross tons, on passage from Penang, Malaysia, to Mackay, Australia, ran aground on Chapman Island Reef in position 12 degrees 53 minutes South 143 degrees 36 minutes East. The vessel was refloated, without assistance, at about 0527 hours Eastern Standard Time and, after an inspection for damage and seaworthiness by the ship's Officers, resumed passage to Mackay at 0606 hours Eastern Standard Time on the 2nd September 1986. There was no report of injury to any person nor of any pollution occurring as a result of the grounding.

At the time of the investigation on the 4th September 1986 the vessel was berthed at the Sugar Terminal at Mackay. A Bureau Veritas classification surveyor and a team of divers were in attendance to assess the damage to the vessel. The vessel was found to have sustained no material damage and was seaworthy. The Alam Indah saile d from Mackay at 2015 hours 5 September 1986 for the port of Kelang.


I find that:

  1. The 2nd Offcier, Mr Kyaw Myint Oo, failed to alter course at 0142 when abeam of Wye Reef light or at some time subsequent to 0142 to avoid Chapman Island Reef and to keep the vessel on the track laid down. After 0142 Mr Oo displayed poor seamanship in that he failed to fix the ship's position in a proper and accurate manner and to keep a visual check on the ship's progress. He also failed to call the Master when unsure of the ship's position.
  2. The Master absented himself from the bridge for a prolonged period from 0130 hours to the time of the grounding. He failed to supervise the alteration of course at 0142, which would have been proper for him to oversee given the absence of a pilot and the relatively narrow waters in this area.
  3. At a time, said to be 0147 the helm was applied 10 degrees to port instead of to starboard to keep the ship to the recommended two-way route. The Second Officer either gave the wrong helm order or he failed to observe that the rudder had been applied in the wrong direction. In view of the position of the grounding, and the evidence of the Master, Chief Officer and Quatermaster which is in conflict with the evidence of the 2nd Officer, it is probable that an order for port helm was given by the 2nd Officer.
  4. The voyage had apparently proceeded in a routine manner until 0130 hours 2 September 1986. At 0130 the Master left the bridge and failed to ensure that the bridge was manned in accordance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, in that no separate lookout was kept.
  5. The times given in evidence do not alter the basic cause of the grounding, and under the circumstances it would be unreasonable to expect precise times from the witnesses. There are however inconsistencies that should be noted. Most of the reported times and therefore the positions of the helm orders, to which they relate, are not consistent with the time of grounding. It is probable, given the trim and ballasted state of the ship, that had the helm been applied at the times stated the vessel would not have grounded on Chapman island but would have passed to the north of the reef. It follows that the vessel probably remained on the course of 152 degrees until some time after 0150. The statement of the 2nd Officer, that he ordered and saw 10 degrees of starboard helm and confirmed that the compass was showing a course of 176 degrees true, is not consistent with grounding on Chapman Reef. The account of the degree and timing of helm applied provided by the Quartermaster, should have allowed the ship to pass north of the reef given the ship's trim.
  6. There is no evidence to suggest that there was any gyro compass error of sufficient magnitude to cause this casualty.
  7. The Master did not engage the services of a pilot from the Queensland Coast and Torres Strait Pilot Service in line with his understanding of the preference of the Ships Managers, Pacific Ship Managers Sbn. Bhn., of Subang Jaya, for ships under their management to engage a pilot for loaded passages only. This practice is contrary to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Maritime Safety Committee, circular MSC/Circ 430, which has been issued pending adoption of a draft resolution by the IMO Assembly in November 1987. The circular recommends that ships of 100 metres in length and over, and all loaded oil tankers, chemical carriers or liquefied gas carriers, irrespective of size, use the pilotage services provided by the Queensland Coast and Torres Strait Pilot Service when navigating in the Torres Strait and inner route of the Great Barrier Reef area between Booby Island (latitude 10°36' south, longitude 141°54' east) and latitude 16°40' south or through the Great North East Channel, or Hydrographers Passage.
  8. The action of the Master subsequent to the grounding and the precautions taken in refloating his ship were carried out in a proper, prudent and seamanlike manner.
  9. The light on Chapman Reef was fully operational.
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General details
Date: 02 September 1986   Investigation status: Completed  
Location: Great Barrier Reef    
State: Queensland    
Release date: 01 January 1987   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Alam Indah  
Flag Malay  
IMO 325942  
Type of operation General cargo vessel  
Damage to vessel Nil  
Departure point Penang, Malaysia  
Destination Mackay, Qld  
Last update 18 May 2016