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At 1142 Eastern Standard Time (EST) on 24 July 1989 the Cypriot flag liquefied gas carrier "Kouris" anchored off Bate Bay, New South Wales.

During the afternoon the westerly wind dropped to light airs. At about 2330 EST the wind began to freshen backing to a little east of south. At about 0315 EST on 25 July the officer of the watch reported to the Master that the ship was drifting. Initial attempts to start the engine failed and the second anchor was dropped. At about 0335 EST the ship grounded in shoal water near Merries Reef.

Driven by the wind and sea the "Kouris" was blown clear of the shoal water. Although the engines were available at about 0345 EST the rudder failed to operate. At approximately 0418 EST the ship grounded on Cronulla Beach and by 0436 it was apparent that the ship could not be freed by use of its engines at that time, and assistance was requested through Sydney Harbour Control.

The ship eventually refloated at 0315 EST on 27 July 1989 and berthed in Sydney late on 27 July to assess damage.

Captain CW Filor, Director Ship Operations, Department of Transport and Communications was appointed under the provisions of section 377A of the Navigation Act 1912 to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine the reasons for the grounding and to establish what actions the Master took to prevent pollution and to safeguard the lives of the crew. Captain MD O'Keeffe, of the Maritime Services Board also took part in the investigation.


The Cypriot liquefied gas carrier "Kouris" came into heavy bottom contact in shoal water off Merries Reef at about 0335 on 25 July 1989, disabling the ship's rudder and sustaining extensive bottom damage. Through being unable to steer and manoeuvre normally as a result of the rudder damage the ship grounded on Cronulla Beach at approximately 0438. The cause of the contact with Merries Reef and the subsequent grounding are as follows:

  1. the starboard anchor carried away under a shock load in excess of its nominal breaking load.
  2. the failure to maintain the engine in a running condition when first started between approximately 0325 and 0330; this failure may have been due to either: - (a) an intermittent failure in the engine control system, or (b) human error in failing to recognise the need to cancel the "Emergency Stop - Engine Overspeed" control and/or ensure sufficient air supply to start engine.
  3. the failure of the port anchor cable at approximately 0327 through the sudden load put on a short scope of cable when the cable stopper was applied with between 2 and 3 shackles paid out in approximately 20 metres of water.
  4. The failure by the Master, Chief Officer and Second Officer to obtain weather forecasts and strong wind and gale warnings.
  5. The failure of the Master at 0200 25 July to appreciate the significance of the wind shift and that the ship was anchored to a lee shore.
  6. The general lack of communication and understanding of responsibility by the officers aboard.
  7. Captain Schluchter used six shackles of cable rather than the eight shackles theoretically required in 25 metres of water. Had he used eight shackles he would have used the total length of cable available to him and had none in reserve. The investigating officers are satisfied that the use of six shackles under the conditions prevailing on the afternoon of 24 July was reasonable.
  8. In not allowing the crew to leave the ship Captain Schluchter reduced the risk of injury to the crew and ensured that the ship had sufficient crew when the "Kouris" refloated.
  9. In completing the inerting operation of the cargo tanks the risk of fire or explosion was minimised, thus protecting life and property.
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 838KB]
General details
Date: 25 July 1989 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: N/A  
Location:Sydney Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: New South Wales  
Release date: 01 November 1989  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel details
Vessel: Kouris 
Flag: Cypru 
IMO: 708528 
Type of Operation: Liquified gas carrier 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Westernport
Departure time:N/A
Destination:Botany Bay, NSW
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Last update 18 May 2016