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In the early morning of 3 December 1992, the fishing vessel Ronda Lene was trawling for prawns to the south-east of Middle Reef in the Great Barrier Reef. At 0220, the vessel was trawling in a north-westerly direction; one of the two deck hands was on watch while the skipper and second deck hand were sleeping below.

The Bahamas flag cargo ship Fareast, north bound through the inner two-way route, passed Restoration Rock, 12 miles south-south-east of Middle Reef on a course of 330 degrees at 0218. A qualified officer was in charge of the watch, the Master was on the bridge, and a pilot of the Queensland Coast and Torres Strait Pilot Service was resting on a settee at the back of the wheelhouse.

The weather was clear, with good visibility. The Ronda Lene and other fishing vessels could be clearly seen from the bridge of Fareast.

At about 0244, Fareast and Ronda Lene collided. No one was injured and no pollution occurred. Ronda Lene suffered damage to the port fishing boom and to the vessel's structure and fittings.


It is considered that the collision occurred as the result of a number of factors:

1. Fareast had a duty to keep clear of Ronda Lene, but failed to maintain a careful watch on the fishing vessel.

2. The Second Mate of Fareast failed to use the radar to full advantage, or other means, to ascertain that Ronda Lene was proceeding on a converging course. He therefore failed to either call the Pilot or give Ronda Lene a wider berth.

3. The deck hand aboard Ronda Lene failed to keep a proper lookout and was unaware of the presence of Fareast until just before the collision.

It is further considered that:

4. The Pilot taking a rest at that point, given that the Master was on the bridge and the vessel was on a steady course, was not unreasonable.

5. The Master, finding it necessary to leave the bridge, albeit for an intended short period, should have advised the Pilot that he was doing so.

6. The deck hand held no marine qualifications and did not understand the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, therefore should not have been left in charge of the watch.

7. The exhibiting of the powerful deck lights when they were not needed was in contravention of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, in that the glare obscured the navigation and fishing signal lights and interfered with the keeping of a proper lookout.

8. The glare of the powerful working lights, particularly those of the fluorescent type, required for processing the catch, appears to cause difficulty in visual assessment of the distance of fishing vessels showing them.

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