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Summary

Summary

On 22 February 1995, tropical cyclone 'Bobby' was moving in a west-south-westerly direction off the north-west coast of Australia, gradually increasing in intensity.

At 0600 on 23 February, Bobby was located 136 nautical miles to the north of Dampier and, as a safety precaution, vessels lying at anchor in Dampier Roads were instructed to weigh anchor and proceed to sea.

The Maltese flag, 61,297 deadweight tonnes bulk carrier Bulkazores, one of six vessels at anchor, was the first vessel to clear the anchorage. The Master took the vessel two miles beyond port limits and then hove-to, to ride out the developing storm.

At 0722 on 24 February, the Master of Bulkazores advised Dampier Port Control that Bulkazores was being set towards the shore and, at 1026, the vessel took the ground close to Kendrew Island.

Bulkazores refloated at 1633, at high water, and the Master, on advice from the Harbour Master, let go the starboard anchor. Bulkazores then safely rode out the remainder of the storm. After inspection by divers, the vessel was moved on 28 February, to a position close to Dampier public wharf.

An inspection by divers indicated extensive scratching and paint removal, but only relatively minor indentations in the bottom plating. On 2 March, after an internal inspection confirmed that no tanks had been ruptured, the Classification Society declared Bulkazores fit to load cargo.

Conclusions

These conclusions identify the different factors contributing to the incident, not for the purpose of apportioning blame or liability, but for identifying areas where mariners need to exercise extreme caution and proper planning and bridge resource management in order to prevent a similar occurrence.

The grounding of Bulkazores in shoal water off Kendrew Island, Western Australia, on 24 February 1995, was caused by poor seamanship, in that Bulkazores did not clear the area when the tropical cyclone changed direction and moved towards the Dampier Archipelago, as a result of which the vessel came within the dangerous semicircle of the cyclone and was trapped on a lee shore.

Other decisions and actions, both before Bulkazorres arrived at Dampier and after it was instructed to leave Dampier Roads anchorage, are considered to have contributed to the incident:

The initial recommendation of the weather routing consultant was disregarded, probably in order that Bulkazores would arrive before a competing vessel and, apparently, without taking into account the known behaviour of tropical cyclones off the north-west coast of Australia and their propensity to curve towards the coast.

Despite ample early indication of the probability of strong winds and rough seas being encountered near the coast, additional ballast was not taken in no.4 hold before the weather deteriorated.

The Master relied solely on his own judgement, at no time did he discuss his course of action with his officers, to gain other opinions as to the dangers posed by the cyclone and the appropriate action to be taken.

 
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