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The 30,396 tonne deadweight Panamanian flag bulk carrier Western Winner sailed from Singapore on 27 April 1997, bound for the east coast of Australia, by way of Torres Strait. The vessel had been chartered by the Australian Wheat Board to load a cargo of grain for Egypt.

Within 24 hours, on the morning of 28 April, the ship's destination was changed and the vessel was directed to Port Adelaide. The Master altered the vessel's voyage plan and set course by way of the west coast of Australia and the Great Australian Bight.

On 6 May, after the vessel had rounded Cape Leeuwin, the ship's orders were changed again and the ship diverted to Wallaroo in the Spencer Gulf, before calling at Port Adelaide. Western Winner did not carry all the necessary charts, lacking two and in particular chart Aus 777, "Winceby Island to Point Riley", which covered Tiparra Reef and the approaches to Wallaroo. The Master telexed the ship's agent requesting that he supply the two charts on arrival at Wallaroo.

The position of the pilot boarding ground off Wallaroo was taken from publications carried on board and marked on a sheet of blank paper fixed to the chart covering the northern area of the Gulf. The ship's course was laid off directly for the pilot boarding ground.

On the afternoon of 8 May, Western Winner entered Spencer Gulf. The ship continued on passage, expecting to arrive at the Pilot ground at about 2230. After dark, the ship experienced rain squalls and restricted visibility.

At about 2130, the radar showed an echo fine to starboard. In view of the heavy rain, the Master put the engine on standby and reduced speed. At about 2210, the ship ran aground with Tiparra Reef light bearing 128x 1.2 miles in position 34 03.2' South 137 03.2" East.

Ballast was jettisoned and at about 1345 on 9 May, the vessel refloated without assistance and, under its own power, cleared the reef and proceeded to the anchorage off Wallaroo, dropping anchor at 1530.

No injuries were incurred by any of the crew and no pollution resulted from the grounding.


These conclusions identify the different factors contributing to the incident and should not be read as apportioning liability or blame to any particular individual or organisation. The following factors are considered to have contributed to the grounding of Western Winner on Tiparra Reef on 8 May 1997:

  • The absence of the appropriate charts for the approaches to Tiparra Reef and Wallaroo.
  • The failure to refer to the Admiralty sailing directions for a description of the waters of Spencer Gulf.
  • The Master not informing the owners of the absence of the chart on 6 May.
  • An unwarranted assumption by the Master that the ship's agent would have been alerted to the absence of appropriate charts, merely because he requested charts be supplied on arrival, and he would have been informed of any hazard on the passage.
  • The change in orders from Port Adelaide to Wallaroo as first port.
  • A lack of compatible records between the ship and shore management as they related to the chart folios carried on board Western Winner.
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General details
Date: 08 May 1997 Investigation status: Completed 
Location:Wallaroo Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: South Australia  
Release date: 13 January 1998  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel details
Vessel: Western Winner 
Flag: Panama 
IMO: 8029258 
Type of Operation: Bulk carrier 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Singapore
Destination:Port Adelaide
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Last update 19 May 2016