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On the morning of Friday 13 December 1996, the Australian fishing vessel Moonshot was trawling for prawns off Pakhoi Bank, north of Cape Upstart, Northern Queensland. At about 0330, with the vessel trawling in a north-north-westerly direction, the Skipper handed over to a deckhand and went below to get some sleep.

Shortly before 0400, the Skipper was aroused by a shout from the deckhand. Scrambling up into the wheelhouse, he saw the bow of a ship very close on the starboard bow and only had time to brace himself before the stem of Moonshot came in contact with the port bow of the ship. Moonshot was pushed around to port, heeling dangerously to port as the starboard fishing boom came in contact with the side of the ship. As the ship passed clear, the deckhand saw the word ISTANBUL on its stern.

The ship did not stop, or respond to the Skipper's calls on VHF 16.

Moonshot received damage to the stem and starboard bow, also to the starboard fishing boom. After ascertaining that the vessel was not taking water, the crew retrieved the fishing gear, then returned to Townsville for Moonshot to undergo repairs.

The Turkish bulk carrier Gumbet was on a ballast passage from Hong Kong to Geelong and had disembarked the Barrier Reef pilot off Cairns at 1230 on Thursday 12 December 1996.

When the Master went to the bridge at 0630 on 13 December, for his customary morning check, he was informed that the Second Mate had experienced a close quarters situation with a fishing vessel at 0340, off Tink Shoal. The Master telexed a brief account of the reported incident to the vessel's owner.

When Gumbet arrived at Geelong on 18 December, it bore signs of a recent contact between the light and load water lines on the port bow.


These conclusions identify the factors contributing to the incident and should not be taken as apportioning either blame or liability.

The main contributing factors are considered to be:

The inexperience of the Watch Officer aboard Gumbet, as a result of which:

  • He did not allow a sufficiently wide berth when passing the fishing vessels;
  • He did not use visual bearings or the radar to full effect to correctly ascertain the courses of the fishing vessels and to determine whether risk of collision existed;
  • After the incident with Moonshot, he did not make contact with the fishing vessel to ascertain whether the crew were injured and whether they needed assistance.

The lack of formal marine training of the person left in charge of Moonshot, as a result of which:

  • The progress of Gumbet was not properly monitored, the risk of collision was not assessed and the developing situation was not appreciated;
  • An inappropriate course alteration was made, which nullified action taken by the other vessel.
  • It is considered that the Master of Gumbet was unaware of the incident and so was not aware that his vessel may have been involved in a collision.
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