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On the morning of 5 April 1998, the fishing vessel Melina T was proceeding on a westerly course at full speed, about 7 knots, headed back to its base at Mooloolaba. One of the deckhands was on watch in the wheelhouse and the steering was in the automatic mode.

The Panamanian bulk carrier Eternal Wind was proceeding due north at 13 knots, on passage from Port Kembla to Niihama, Japan, with a cargo of coal. At 0800, the 3rd Mate took over the watch from the Mate, who had instructed the AB watchkeeper to take temperature and atmosphere readings of the cargo hold. The wind was from the south-east at force 5, which was generating a moderate to rough sea on a low swell, and the visibility was good.

At 0815, the two vessels collided, the bow planks of the fishing vessel being sprung by the impact, causing the fishing vessel to flood. Eternal Wind turned about to stand by Melina T, and took the four-man crew aboard when they had to abandon their vessel.

Melina T sank at 1027 and Eternal Wind diverted from its passage to land the four fishermen off Point Cartwright, where the men were disembarked to a water police launch. Eternal Wind then continued on its voyage to Japan.

The Master, officers and crew of Eternal Wind were interviewed when the vessel loaded at Hay point, Queensland on the subsequent voyage.


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

  • The lookout being kept aboard Eternal Wind was ineffective in that Melina T was not seen in sufficient time to prevent collision.
  • The watch officer aboard Eternal Wind ceased to keep a lookout when he set about checking the error on the compass.
  • The 8-12 seaman watchkeeper aboard Eternal Wind had been assigned duties on the main deck and was not available to keep a lookout while the watch-officer was engaged in other navigational duties.
  • The officers aboard Eternal Wind placed an over-reliance on radar for lookout purposes in open waters.
  • The lookout being kept aboard Melina T was ineffective in that Eternal Wind was not seen until it had closed to two miles distance and a watch on the vessel was not then maintained to ascertain whether risk of collision existed.
  • The Skipper of Melina T had not reacquainted the relief deckhand with his standing instructions that he was to be told whenever another vessel was sighted.

It is further considered that the positioning of the nails securing the hull planking to the athwartship bulkhead, being close to the engine room side of the bulkhead, prevented effective plugging of the gaps and contributed to the foundering of Melina T.

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