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Shortly before 0100 on 9 September 1992, the yacht Libra, on passage from Noumea to Brisbane, was involved in a collision with a large, unidentified, north-bound ship about 44 miles east-north-east of Cape Moreton.

Libra was dis-masted and suffered damage to railings, but the water-tight integrity of the hull was not impaired. When daylight arrived the skipper was able to cut free the mast and rigging, and the yacht was able to proceed, under engine power, to Brisbane.

A review of shipping movements ascertained that the Panamanian tanker Sanko Heron, on passage from Port Bonython to Japan, was close to Libra's position at the time of the collision.

Paint deposited on the deck of the Libra during the collision and samples of the hull paint provided by Sanko Heron were examined by the the Scientific Branch of the Australian Federal Police who formed the opinion that it appears highly probable that the samples shared a common origin.


It is considered that:

  1. Although there was an apparent 2.5 miles difference in the positions of the two vessels, on the balance of probabilities, Sanko Heron was the ship that collided with Libra.
  2. The collision was due to failure in lookout in that:
    • The skipper of Libra failed to keep a lookout as required under Rule 5 of the COLREGS.
    • The lookout aboard Sanko Heron was inadequate, in that the lights shown by Libra and the collision were undetected.
  3. The skipper of the yacht was unaware that he was crossing a major shipping lane.
  4. The Master of Sanko Heron had no knowledge of the collision and, therefore, could not be expected to have offered assistance to Libra.
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