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At about 1600 on 2 January 1996, the Owner/skipper of the Queensland fishing vessel Jay Dee was washed ashore, together with the vessel's 'carley' float, about 3 km South of Brunswick Heads, New South Wales.

In a subsequent statement to the New South Wales Police, he stated that on the evening of 31 December (New Years Eve) 1995, he had been trawling for prawns about 16 miles east of Southport, Queensland, the only crew member of his trawler Jay Dee. At about 2200, while trawling in an easterly direction his vessel was hit on the port side by a large trading ship. He was unable to identify the ship in any way.

Jay Dee immediately started to take water into the forecastle accommodation space and the engine room. The Skipper had just sufficient time to release a parachute flare over the stern and towards the bow of the retreating ship, grab a short length of line and free the carley float from the wheelhouse top before jumping clear of the sinking vessel.

The trading vessel did not stop.

The Skipper was able to gain the carley float and secure the ice box, which had floated free and inverted.

He spent that night, the day and night of 1 January, in all over 40 hours adrift, before coming ashore south of Brunswick Heads on 2 January.


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

With the inability to identify any particular trading ship that may have been involved with an acceptable degree of probability, these conclusions are based on the premise that an unidentified trading ship was involved.

The following factors contributed to the causes of the collision:

  1. The trading vessel apparently not maintaining a proper lookout by sight, sound and radar.
  2. The trading vessel, as the vessel required to give way, not taking action to avoid a vessel engaged in trawling.
  3. The Skipper of the Jay Dee not keeping a proper lookout and not detecting the presence of the trading vessel.
  4. The unserviceability of Jay Dee's radar which, if operational, switched on and observed, could have shown the approaching target.
  5. The decision to operate the vessel alone, which was unsafe and meant that a proper lookout was not possible.

The following factors contributed to the length of time that Jay Dee's Skipper was adrift on the Carley float and/or increased the risk to his life:

  1. The lookout/officer of the watch not seeing/responding to the flare fired by Jay Dee's Skipper.
  2. The inaccessibility of the lifejackets carried on board Jay Dee.
  3. The inaccessibility of the EPIRB carried at the after end of Jay Dee's wheelhouse.
  4. The inappropriate nature of the Carley float as an offshore survival aid, resulting in prolonged time in the water, with no means of attracting attention, and the absence of food, water and shelter.
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