Marine safety investigations & reports

Loss of life on the cargo ship Gabriella

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 14 August 1986, the Dutch Antilles heavy lift cargo ship Gabriella, moored starboard side alongside the wharf, was discharging a 237.95 tonnes lift onto a low loader at Port kembla, NSW. The effect of the heavy lift suspended outboard to starboard was counteracted by the movement of fuel & ballast to port side tanks.

The low loader was positioned under the suspended lift & when lowering of the lift onto the low loader commenced, the runner wire of the forward derrick parted, causing the lift to drop onto the low loader. This sudden release of weight from the derrick, caused the vessel to roll violently to about 45° to port, away from the wharf. This caused the submersion of the open hatch & rapid flooding of the hold. The vessel continued to roll to port & sank, on its port side, within 15 seconds of the wire runner breaking, the starboard side of the vessel remaining just clear of the water.

Two cargo/hull insurance surveyors had been within the accommodation & lost their lives. The vessel was declared a constructive total loss.


The wire runner broke due to considerable strength reduction caused by corrosion & abrasion.

The corrosion & abrasion were causedd by the protective lubricant not penetrating the rope, evidently due to ineffective application.

The examination of the rope prior to & during use in Port Kembla was ineffective.

The continued working of the wire runner after one strand reportly broke before lowering commenced. The required lowering could have been achieved by a combination of tide & list, or by lowering the derricks.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 317KB]
General details
Date: 14 August 1986   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: N/A    
Location: Port Kembla    
State: New South Wales    
Release date: 01 February 1987   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Gabriella D001  
Flag N/A  
Type of operation Heavy lift ship  
Damage to vessel Substantial  
Departure point Port Kembla  
Departure time N/A  
Destination N/A  
  Crew Passenger Ground Total
Fatal: 0 0 2 2
Total: 0 0 2 2
Last update 23 May 2016