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On the morning of 13 April 1997, the tug Wambiri was assisting in the departure of the Singaporean flag vehicle carrier Salome from berth No. 2 North Quay, in the port of Fremantle. Wambiri was made fast aft and was using its own, forward towline, the eye of which was placed over a bollard on Salome's poop. After Salome had been manoeuvred clear of the berth, Wambiri was instructed to accompany the vessel on a slack line until the Pilot was satisfied he had steerage way.

When the order was given to let go the tug, before Salome's crew could lift the eye off the bollard, weight quickly came on the towrope, the Tugmaster misinterpreting the signal to slack away as heave away. The towrope parted in the eye and, recoiling, struck one of the tug's integrated ratings, who suffered severe internal and external injuries.


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

The towrope, which injured the rating aboard the tug Wambiri, parted at the bollard aboard Salome, after the Tugmaster quickly took the way off the tug before it had been let go.

The following factors are considered to have contributed to the incident:

  • Low level of alertness, and possible acute fatigue, of the Tugmaster, caused by the recent shift change.
  • The misinterpretation of the signals made by the crew on the poop of Salome.
  • The uni-lever in the neutral position, to slow the tug down, expecting the towrope to pull clear, before the eye was seen to be clear of the Panama lead on the vessel. This resulted in the rapid stopping of Wambiri before the towrope had been removed from the bollard on Salome and a consequent shock loading of the towrope.
  • It is possible unidentified damage to the eye of the towrope, sustained on some earlier occasion, which resulted in the towrope being less resilient to shock loading.

Also of relevance is the lack of Bridge Resource Management procedures and communication aboard Salome, in that the 2nd Mate was unaware of the Pilot's intended retention of the tug and misinterpreted the slack line to mean the tug wanted to let go.

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[ Download PDF: 296KB]
General details
Date: 13 April 1997 Investigation status: Completed 
Location:Fremantle Harbour Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Western Australia  
Release date: 15 August 1998  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: Serious 
Vessel details
Vessel: Wambiri 
Flag: Aus 
IMO: 8515518 
Type of Operation: Tug 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Port of Fremantle, WA
Serious: 1001
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Last update 19 May 2016