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In the afternoon of 26 November 1996, the Australian fishing vessel Nimbus was on passage from Cairns to Thursday Island in company with the fishing vessel Anniki, after both vessels had completed a refit. Each vessel was towing a string of aluminium dories or dinghies in line astern - Nimbus was towing five. The Singapore flag bulk carrier Maersk Tapah was on passage from Gladstone to India with a full cargo of coal. The navigation was under the control of a licensed pilot.

Both vessels were making for a point to the east of Low Isles, about 30 miles north of Cairns. At about 1522, while Maersk Tapah was overtaking Nimbus the two vessels collided. Nimbus sustained damage to its bow and wooden hull. Nobody was hurt and no pollution resulted from the collision.

The Pilot on Maersk Tapah ensured that Nimbus required no assistance and the two vessels exchanged details. Maersk Tapah continued on its voyage to India and Nimbus resumed passage for Thursday Island.


These conclusions identify the different factors contributing to the collision between Maersk Tapah and Nimbus and should not be read as apportioning liability or blame to any particular individual or organisation.

The factors leading to the collision centre on the watchkeeping aboard both vessels and the disregard of the International Regulations for preventing Collisions at Sea.

  1. Neither the Pilot or Second Mate of Maersk Tapah made a full appraisal of the overtaking situation and risk of collision; their use of objective means to assess whether or not the bearing of the fishing vessel was appreciably changing was not effective.
  2. Maersk Tapah's Pilot accepted an unnecessarily close quarter situation in the overtaking manoeuvre, resulting in contact between the two vessels.
  3. With Maersk Tapah's automatic radar plotting aid giving inconsistent data for the vessels being overtaken, the Second Mate did not use compass bearings to establish whether the bearings of the vessels being overtaken were altering appreciably.
  4. Maersk Tapah's Second Mate having voiced a concern about the overtaking situation did not inform the Master of his concern.
  5. The lack of a lookout or any proper watchkeeping aboard Nimbus meant that the Skipper was not in a position to take action within the requirements of the Collision Regulations to take any necessary avoiding manoeuvre.
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 369KB]
General details
Date: 26 November 1996 Investigation status: Completed 
Location:Great Barrier Reef Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland  
Release date: 09 May 1997  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel 1 details
Vessel: Nimbus, H.P.F-T 
Flag: Australia 
Type of Operation: Fishing vessel 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Cairns, Qld
Destination:Thursday Island, Qld
Vessel 2 details
Vessel: Maersk Tapah 
Flag: Singapore 
IMO: 8808367 
Type of Operation: Bulk Carrier 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Gladstone, Qld
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Last update 19 May 2016