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On 9 September 1991 the 6710 tonnes deadweight Panamanian registered motor tanker Jovian Loop grounded on Unison Reef in the inner two-way route of the Great Barrier Reef, while on passage from Broome to Townvsille with a part cargo of tallow.

The ship was refloated after one hour, without assistance, and continued on its voyage to Townsville. No pollution resulted from the grounding and the ship sustained only minor damage.

Under the provisions of the Navigation (Marine Casualty) Regulations the Marine Incident Investigation Unit undertook an investigation to identify the circumstances of the grounding.


It is considered that:

  1. At 0333, in a position with Rocky Point Island bearing 225° at 2.0 miles, the Pilot altered the course of the Jovian Loop to a heading of 153° Gyro, for 152° True, and ascertained that the heading was correct by observing the relative positions of Barrow Island light and Noble Island.
  2. After the Pilot left the conning position the Helmsman, without instruction from the Pilot or 2nd Mate, changed over to automatic steering, but failed to check the course setting. As a result of this the Jovian Loop went off course to port, settling on a heading of 132°.
  3. The grounding of the Jovian Loop on Unison Reef was a direct result of the ship's deviation from the course ordered by the Pilot and of the 2nd Mate's failure to notice the deviation.
  4. The 2nd Mate failed in his responsibilities in that: (i) he failed to monitor the Pilot's actions; (ii) when left in sole charge by the Pilot he failed to monitor the ship's progress, instead busying himself with writing up the log book; (iii) he failed to appreciate the danger posed to the ship by proceeding on a course of 135°.
  5. When taking over the watch at 0355 the mate failed to pick up the discrepancy between the course line drawn on the chart (152°) and the course being steered as handed over by the 2nd mate (135°).
  6. The Master was remiss in that he did not leave instructions with the Officer of the Watch to be called if the Pilot left the bridge for more than a few minutes.
  7. The Master acted correctly in ascertaining the soundings around the ship and of the ship's tanks.
  8. Manoeuvring the engine astern, shortly after 0400, before ascertaining whether the hull had been breached was a dangerous course of action.
  9. The onboard operational procedures were poor in that: (i) a proper passage plan had not been prepared and followed; (ii) no proper record of courses, alterations of course and positions was maintained; (iii) there was no proper supervision, by the officer of the watch, of when the helmsman should change over to automatic steering mode.
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[ Download PDF: 498KB]
General details
Date: 09 September 1991 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: N/A  
Location:Great Barrier Reef Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland  
Release date: 08 July 1992  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel details
Vessel: Jovian Loop 
Flag: Panam 
IMO: D830049 
Type of Operation: Bulk carrier 
Damage to Vessel: Minor 
Departure point:Broome, WA
Departure time:N/A
Destination:Townsville, Qld
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Last update 18 May 2016