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At 0600 on the morning of 6 May 1997, the Panamanian flag woodchip carrier Taio Frontier arrived at the pilot boarding ground off the entrance to the Tamar River, Northern Tasmania, to embark a pilot to proceed to Bell Bay. Due to a north-easterly swell, the two pilots assigned the job were unable to get to the pilot ladder, rigged on the port side, and they requested the Master to go full ahead and hard to starboard, in order to make a lee.

The Master ordered hard to starboard, but because of concern about the closeness of Hebe Reef, only ordered slow ahead. As soon as both pilots were on board, he ordered full ahead and hard to port, then instructed the helmsman to steady on 160. On gaining the bridge, the first pilot realised the ship was headed for West Reef and ordered full ahead, hard to port.

When the ship had swung to a heading of about 102, there was a shudder as though the ship had struck the bottom, but the ship maintained its forward movement. Speed was reduced to half ahead and the pilot took the ship to anchor, close to the pilot boarding ground, where all tanks were checked and machinery and controls tested. Everything appeared normal and there was no ingress of water or sign of oil pollution, therefore the pilotage was resumed.

From the estimated position of the contact, the charted depth was around 16 m to 17 m, with a rise of tide of one metre, while the draught aft was 7.72 m. Subsequent inspection by divers revealed the tips of two adjacent propeller blades had been damaged and the heel of the rudder set upwards, indicating contact with an obstruction of relatively small area.


These conclusions identify the factors contributing to the incident and should not be taken as apportioning either blame of liability. The main contributing factors are considered to be:

  • The pilot ladder was rigged on the weather side, preventing the Pilots from boarding until a lee had been provided.
  • The lack of any planning of the approach, with no delineation of danger areas or safety limits on the chart, or consideration of possible contingencies.
  • A misunderstanding on the part of the Master of what the Pilot requested regarding the making of a lee.
  • Inappropriate action to provide the necessary lee to enable the Pilots to board.
  • The lack of Bridge Resource Management procedures, in that the Master did not inform the Mate of his intended actions or seek the Mate's support in monitoring and advising him on the progress of the manoeuvres; in that the Mate did not provide active support to the Master; and in that navigational equipment was either ignored or not used to full effect.
  • The differing ethnic/cultural backgrounds of the Master and the deck officers, which inhibited the Master in his dealings with those officers.
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[ Download PDF: 171KB]
General details
Date: 06 May 1997 Investigation status: Completed 
Location:Bell Bay Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Tasmania  
Release date: 27 February 1998  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel details
Vessel: Taio Frontier 
Flag: Pan 
IMO: 8704432 
Type of Operation: Woodchip carrier 
Damage to Vessel: Minor 
Departure point:Burnie, Northern Tasmania
Destination:Bell Bay, Tas
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Last update 19 May 2016