Jump to Content
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 311KB]

The Singapore flag livestock carrier Norvantes sailed from the Queensland port of Karumba, in the Gulf of Carpentaria at 2218 on 19 November 1998. Norvantes carried 1509 head of cattle, together with the necessary fodder and water. The navigation of the ship was under the direction of a licensed pilot.

Norvantes cleared the Norman River and entered the approach channel marked by buoys and beacons. At about 2300 the ship turned on to a westerly heading in 'Elbow Reach' with about 2700 m (1.458 miles) to run before the final west-north-westerly course to the fairway buoy. Ahead, the Pilot could see No.9 beacon and two red buoy lights. Instead of both buoys being seen to the north of the beacon, one was apparently to the south. The Pilot instructed the pilot launch, which was travelling alongside Norvantes, to go ahead at best speed and investigate. The ship was slowed from half ahead to dead slow ahead and the ship steered for the port (southern side) of the channel to stay clear of the buoy and the pilot boat.

The coxswain of the pilot boat reported that No.8 buoy, which marks the junction of Elbow Reach and the Bar Reach to the fairway buoy, was out of position. The pilot boat crew put a line around the buoy and towed it in a northward direction out of the channel. The buoy was pulled to a position close west of No.10 buoy. Norvantes passed the buoy as the pilot boat crew released the improvised towline.

When the pilot judged that Norvantes was in the wheel over position for the alteration of course to the fairway buoy, course was progressively altered to starboard. As the vessel was brought to a heading of about 285, the ship stopped turning. Norvantes was aground on the eastern side of the channel.

Attempts to refloat the ship continued until about 0240 but were unsuccessful. The Pilot left the ship at 0250. The following day another pilot boarded the vessel in preparation for the refloating of the ship.

Norvantes was refloated at about 1750 on 20 November using its rudder and engine and with the aid of a local workboat and the pilot boat. The vessel went to anchor close to the fairway buoy. After the ship was found to have sustained no damage and cattle had been examined, it sailed for the Philippines port of General Santos.


These conclusions identify the factors contributing to the incident and should not be taken as apportioning either blame or liability. The livestock carrier Norvantes grounded as a result of a number of factors, chief of which was that:

  • No. 8 temporary buoy was out of position, most probably because its dump was of insufficient mass to anchor it in the prevailing conditions. Also the following factors contributed to the incident:
    • The Pilot relied solely on his own knowledge and experience of the port and did not use bridge resource management principles to engage the ship's staff in the pilotage.
    • Although the Pilot and Master knew that No. 8 buoy was out of position, neither used the time between 2300 and 2318 to fix a position using alternative marks.
    • The Pilot had no alternative plan to identify safe turning positions in the event of the failure or movement of any channel marker.
    • The visibility from the bridge was severely limited by the stowing of fodder forward of the bridge.
    • The leading lights were partially obscured at the western end of Elbow Reach by the background lighting connected with the development works in the port of Karumba.
    • The Pilot's experience of piloting in the port was limited by the preference for senior pilots to operate in the east coast ports of the Cairn's region.
    • There was some degree of tension between the bridge team and the Pilot.
    • The ship did not carry the most up to date chart of the Channel showing the correct position of buoys and beacons or the correct numbering system.
    • The scale of 1:50,000 of the inset chart of the 'Approaches to Karumba' on chart Aus 303, 'Nassau River to Wellsley Islands', is insufficient for effective passage planning in pilotage waters.
    • The ship, although visiting the Port of Karumba regularly, undertook no proper planning for the pilotage passage.
    • There was potential for a degree of ambiguity in the monitoring of the ship' s progress by the ship's staff in that they and the Pilot were not using the same channel marker numbering system.
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 311KB]
General details
Date: 19 November 1998 Investigation status: Completed 
Location:Karumba Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland  
Release date: 26 July 1999  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel details
Vessel: Norvantes 
Flag: Singa 
IMO: 7128760 
Type of Operation: Livestock carrier 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Karumba, Gulf of Carpentaria
Destination:General Santos, Philippines
Share this page Provide feedback on this investigation
Last update 19 May 2016