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The 135,000 tonne deadweight bulk carrier Goonzaran anchored four miles off the Port of Newcastle, New South Wales, at 2200 on 20 November 1995, to load a cargo of coal. The vessel was scheduled to berth on 25 November.

The 38,305 tonne deadweight bulk carrier New Noble anchored about four miles off Newcastle, at 0955 on 22 November, about 1.2 miles south of the Goonzaran. New Noble was also to load coal and was due to berth about midday on 24 November.

At 0000 on 23 November, the wind speed and direction recorded at Nobbys Head signal station was from the south-east at eight knots (force 2). At 0700, the wind speed had increased to 16 knots, veering to the south-south-east and increasing to 30 knots by 0800. At 1000, the wind speed had risen to 38 knots from the south-south-west.

With the increasing wind speed and heightening sea and swell, the New Noble's Master ordered the engine should be ready for immediate use, but the ship reportedly maintained its position throughout the morning. At about 1400 on 23 November, the Master became concerned that the vessel was dragging anchor to the north. The bulk carrier, Goonzaran, was the closest ship, lying to the north and in the line of drift of New Noble.

At about 1420, the Mate was sent forward with three crew members to weigh anchor. At about this time the Masters of Goonzaran and New Noble made contact on channel 6 VHF and the Master of New Noble informed Goonzaran that he was weighing anchor. New Noble's engine was used to try and take the weight off the anchor cable and five and a half shackles (150 m) was recovered, but the windlass could not recover the final three shackles.

At approximately 1448, New Noble had closed to about 3 cables (550 m) from the bow of Goonzaran and New Noble continued to drag anchor towards the larger ship. On board Goonzaran the engine had been put on stand-by and the Mate and three crew were forward by the windlass. At about 1450, Goonzaran paid out a further 90 m of anchor cable, to 12 shackles. However at about 1458, New Noble's anchor fouled Goonzaran's anchor cable drawing the ships together, before clearing itself a few minutes later.

At 1500 New Noble collided with Goonzaran in way of number three hold and then passed down Goonzaran's side making two further contacts.

Once clear of Goonzaran, New Noble recovered its anchor and after checking for ingress of water put out to sea to await port entry.

Goonzaran suffered significant damage to the hull and deck plating. New Noble suffered relatively minor damage to the bow at the forecastle head level and an indentation in its bulbous bow. Nobody was hurt as a result of the collision.

On 24 November, both ships were brought into port for inspection and necessary repair.


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

The following factors are considered to have contributed to the collision between New Noble and Goonzaran:

  1. The Master and watchkeeping deck officers aboard New Noble did not appreciate that the ship had dragged anchor from its original position, indicating that the combination of the depth of water, holding ground and ship's freeboard combined to make the anchorage insecure and alert them to the increased risk of dragging anchor in deteriorating weather.
  2. The Master and watchkeeping deck officers aboard New Noble did not detect the early signs of dragging and increased the risk of an accident by not reacting sufficiently early to the dragging of the ship's anchor.
  3. The need to monitor the ship's position from a consistent set of reference marks was not fully appreciated by the Master and officers on board New Noble.
  4. The limitations of the anchors was not fully appreciated by New Noble's Master.
  5. Inadequate communications between the two ships meant that Goonzaran's Master was unaware that New Noble's anchor could not be recovered before the collision occurred.
  6. New Noble's Master was preoccupied with the recovery of the anchor and did not drive the ship ahead, either dragging the anchor or releasing the bitter end and allowing it to pay out, while the opportunity existed.
  7. New Noble's Master undertook no contingency planning regarding recovery of the anchor, nor did he think through his intended action or make any realistic assessment of how long it would take to recover the anchor.
  8. New Noble's position relative to the most imminent danger, Goonzaran, was not monitored while trying to weigh anchor.

The Inspector also concludes that:

  1. The decision by New Noble's Master not to drop the port anchor was sensible in the circumstances.
  2. Goonzaran's Master had the option of slipping his ship's anchor cable and this may have avoided the collision.
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