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On 4 October 1991 the Australian flag bulk carrier TNT Carpentaria was on passage from Weipa to Gladstone with a fill cargo of bauxite and drawing a maximum draught of 12.13m.

At about 1716 Eastern Standard Time, a pilot from the Queensland Coast and Torres Strait Pilot Service boarded the ship about 2.4 miles west of Harrison Rock buoy at the western extreme of the Prince of Wales channel

After a brief discussion with the Master, the pilot advised that there was insufficient water in certain parts of the Prince of Wales Channel to allow the ship to make a safe passage. It was decided to wait off the channel until the transmitting tide gauges indicated sufficient under-keel clearance to allow the ship to transit the channel.

At about 1736 the pilot ordered the wheel be put hard to port, so as to make a turn on to a reciprocal course to await the tide.

At about 1754 the vessel grounded 0.7 miles north-west of Harrison Rock at the western end of Sunk Reefs.

At about 2103 the vessel refloated under its own power and the passage to Gladstone was resumed.

No-one was injured in the incident and there was no pollution.


It is concluded that:

  1. The grounding was caused by an error of judgment by the Pilot turning the ship to port rather than to starboard.
  2. The ship's position relative to adjacent shoal water was not known by the Pilot.
  3. The Master and Mate failed to fix the ship's position before the turn to port was made and failed to monitor the ship's position through the course of the turn.
  4. The Master and Mate failed to properly assess the option of turning to starboard.
  5. It would have been prudent for the Pilot to establish the tidal conditions before arriving on board the ship.
  6. Notwithstanding the pilot's error of judgment and his failure to make an early appraisal of the tidal situation, he was placed in an invidious position by the arrival of the TNT Carpentaria at a time when there was insufficient water to navigate the Prince of Wales Channel.
  7. The Master, having completed a passage plan, did not properly appraise and appreciate the significance of the transmissions from tidal stations.
  8. The Second Mate failed to advise the Master of his concern with regard to the passage plan, and also failed to properly monitor the tidal heights and advise the Master of their significance.
  9. The Mate failed to discuss the passage plan with the Master and, with the benefit of his considerable experience in the trade, properly advise him on alternative plans.
  10. The consumption of alcohol was not a factor in the grounding.
  11. There is no evidence that either the Master, or Pilot, or Mate, or Second Mate, were affected by acute fatigue.
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