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A little before 1700 on 12 January 1995, the Australian flag tanker Conus sailed from the tanker berth, Townsville Harbour, under the direction of a pilot.

In navigating the narrow entrance channel the vessel was set to the north and west by the east-south-easterly wind, blowing at 16 to 20 knots and the flood tide.The vessel first touched the side of the channel about 500 metres from the harbour entrance, and then came into contact with a channel marker beacon before coming to a stop just over 1000 m from the entrance.

Nobody was hurt as a result of the grounding. The sea bed on either side of the approach channel is soft mud and no apparent damage was sustained by the ship, no pollution resulted, and the risk of pollution in the circumstances was minimal.

After about 45 minutes the ship was refloated with the ship's main engine and bow thruster and assistance from the two harbour tugs. At 1758 the vessel had regained the channel and at 1815 the tugs were dismissed. The ship cleared the pilotage area, disembarking the Pilot by 1836.


These conclusions identify the different factors contributing to the circumstances and the causes of the incident and should not be read as apportioning liability or blame to any particular organisation or individual.

  1. The Pilot did not plan the undocking and take full account of the wind strength and direction.
  2. The Pilot and Master did not jointly consider any sailing plan for Conus, taking into account the prevailing conditions, rather they relied on a 'standard' departure which did not take into account the possible effect of the wind or tide.
  3. The prevailing wind conditions were not severe or unusual, but they were such that the ship's position and speed at the harbour entrance were critical to a safe transit of the Platypus Channel.
  4. The ship had not gained sufficient speed at the harbour entrance to counteract the ship setting to the port side of the channel.
  5. The correction for leeway and drift in increments of two degrees over a three minute period, rather than an immediate alteration of ten degrees, was inappropriate in the circumstances.
  6. No accurate assessment could be made of the tidal stream, given the absence of any tidal meter monitoring the tide in Platypus Channel.
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 566KB]
General details
Date: 12 January 1995 Investigation status: Completed 
Location:Townsville Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland  
Release date: 10 October 1995  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel details
Vessel: Conus 
Flag: Aus 
IMO: 7918244 
Type of Operation: Motor tanker 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Townsville, Qld
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Last update 19 May 2016