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The Philippine registered bulk carrier SINGA SEA, a ship of 26586 tonnes deadweight and some 175 metres in length overall, loaded a mixed bulk cargo of mineral sands and copper ore at the West Australian ports of Geraldton and Bunbury between 27 June and 2 July. At 0915 hours Western Standard Time (WST)* the ship sailed for Rotterdam via Cape Town, where it was expected to take on bunker fuel.

At 0600 Universal Co-ordinated Time (z) (1400 WST) on 3 July the vessel made a routine position report to the Department of Transport and Communications' Federal Sea Safety Centre (FSSC) under the Australian Ship Reporting System (AUSREP) based on the ship's noon position at 1200 WST. The ship failed to keep its next scheduled broadcast at 1400 WST on 4 July and the search and rescue procedures were put into operation by the FSSC.

At 1018 WST on 7 July a "P3" Orion of the RAAF took off from Pearce RAAF base to search for the missing ship, followed by another sortie on 8 July with the primary task of searching for survival craft. Neither search found any trace of the ship.

On 12 July a search was undertaken of the West coast of Australia by a chartered civil aircraft, as it was possible that liferafts or debris may have drifted onto the coast by then. No trace was found of SINGA SEA, or of any pertinent wreckage.

By 27 July the SINGA SEA had failed to arrive in South Africa and no radio traffic had been heard from the ship. As the cargo had been loaded in Australia and the ship hab been participating in the AUSREP System, a preliminary investigation was commenced into the loading of the ship and the procedures followed by the Federal Sea Safety Centre as they related to the reporting of the SINGA SEA under the AUSREP scheme.

Shortly after midnight WST on the night of 2/3 August, the Greek flag bulk carrier STANDARD VIRTUE saw a single red flare in approximate position 34°19'S 112°22'E, and subsequently recovered six survivors from a lifeboat belonging to the SINGA SEA.

The survivors reported that the vessel had sunk rapidly, after breaking in two in heavy seas, on 4 July 1988. They had been adrift in the lifeboat since that time.

The survivors all definitely stated that no other person had survived the wreck of the vessel, and that no other life raft or boat had been seen subsequent to the sinking. No further searches were therefore carried out for survivors.

The STANDARD VIRTUE diverted towards Fremantle where, on 4 August, the six survivors were lifted off by helicopter arranged by the Sea Safety Centre. After being landed at Fremantle, the survivors were briefly hospitalised before being repratriated to the Philippines.

*See Appendix A for an explanation of the times used in this report.


The actions and procedures of the Federal Sea Safety Centre between the time that the position report from the SINGA SEA became overdue and the time 24 hours had elapsed were correct and in accordance with the AUSREP guidelines.

By deciding not to initiate an air search after the scheduled position report from the SINGA SEA was 24 hours overdue, having established that the ship had not been heard by ships specially tasked to attempt radio contact, or by coast radio stations handling traffic from the ship, the stated objective of the AUSREP scheme was compromised.

The decision by the Director not to fly an air search for the vessel on 6 July was made in the face of mounting evidence that something may have been amiss with the vessel and was not consistent with the primary objective of AUSREP.

The air searches carried out on 7 and 8 July were conducted properly and in accordance with sound and established search and rescue practices.

Given the circumstances of this particular AUSREP incident and the availability of an RAAF aircraft the decision not to fly a daylight visual search for survival craft on 9 July, or subsequent days, was questionable, following the unsuccessful flare search of 8 July.

Following notification of the rescue of survivors from the SINGA SEA on 3 August, an air search for survivors was undertaken. The decision not to conduct further searches after 3 August was correct, and made on the information available.

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General details
Date: 03 July 1988 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: N/A  
Location:South Indian Ocean Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: International  
Release date: 01 November 1988  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Serious Incident 
 Highest injury level: Fatal 
Vessel details
Vessel: Singa Sea D0001 
Flag: Phili 
Type of Operation: Bulk carrier 
Damage to Vessel: Destroyed 
Departure point:Bunbury,WA
Departure time:N/A
Destination:Rotterdam, via Cape Town
Fatal: 190019
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Last update 18 May 2016