Marine safety investigations & reports

Near collision involving Olympic Symphony and an anchored vessel

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On the morning of 28 April 1999, the Greek tanker Olympic Symphony, loaded with crude oil, was inbound to the BP wharf at Luggage Point in the Brisbane River. A pilot was conducting the navigation and the master and 2nd mate were on the bridge. The vessel was on hand steering and, after clearing East Channel, was steadied on a course of 245°. At about 0755, the vessel approached the Entrance Channel and the pilot ordered port rudder.

Olympic Symphony was steadied briefly on a course of 230° when the helmsman noticed that the rudder angle indicator did not indicate any rudder movement to port. At about 0757, the helmsman reported that the vessel was not responding to the helm and that the steering was stuck to starboard.

The pilot ordered the helm hard over each way but there seemed to be no response. He noticed from the rudder angle indicator that the rudder was at 5° to starboard. He ordered the speed reduced and asked the master for emergency steering. The master told the chief engineer to check the steering.

The pilot intended passing ahead of an anchored ship but Olympic Symphony continued to swing to starboard. He realised that they would have to pass astern of the anchored vessel, which was now less than 3 cables off. He ordered the wheel put hard to starboard. The rudder angle indicator went to starboard and he ordered full ahead on the engine. By this time, the stern of the anchored vessel was almost ahead, probably less than a cable* from the bow of Olympic Symphony.

Olympic Symphony passed astern of the anchored vessel, clearing it by about 6-10 m.

The pilot informed port control (Brisbane Harbour) of the steering failure, stating that the vessel was likely to anchor. However, subsequent tests of the steering system showed that it was operating satisfactorily. The master told the pilot that the chief engineer had found no problem with the steering.

The pilot then notified port control that the vessel was operational and that it would be at the entrance beacons in about 12 minutes. The vessel resumed passage to the berth without further incident and, at 1014, was secured alongside.

* 1 Cable = 0.1 nautical miles = 185.2 m


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.

Based on all the evidence available, the following factors are considered to have contributed to the incident:

  1. The micro-switch roller for the 'helm off midships' alarm was liable to obstruct the helm indicator slide.
  2. The 'helm off midships alarm' was not approved by the manufacturers of the steering console and had been installed without reference to them.
  3. The communication by the bridge team to the pilot was deficient, in that the master and the helmsman were aware that there was a response to the movements of the helm to starboard of 5° starboard only, but the pilot was not informed of this.
  4. The master did not try the other steering system or change to the non-followup mode.
  5. It is possible that the pilot, asking for emergency steering, prompted the master to think of the emergency steering position in the steering flat rather than to consider other alternatives available on the bridge.
  6. The procedures available to the bridge team did not specify action to be taken following failure of both steering systems.
  7. The ship's bridge team was not familiar with the steering systems and modes available to it.
  8. Given the unknown cause of the temporary steering failure, insufficient consideration was given to the risks and possible consequences of transiting the Entrance Channel.
  9. Neither the master nor the pilot offered port control sufficient explanation of the incident to allow those on duty to make a judgement as to whether or not the harbour master should be informed and conditions imposed on an entry into port by Olympic Symphony.

Taken as promptly as they were, the actions of the pilot averted a collision.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 986KB]
General details
Date: 28 April 1999   Investigation status: Completed  
Location: Brisbane    
State: Queensland    
Release date: 09 June 2000   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Olympic Symphony  
Flag Gr  
IMO 8900505  
Type of operation Tanker  
Damage to vessel Nil  
Departure point Ras al Khafji, Arabian Gulf  
Destination Luggage Point, Brisbane River  
Last update 19 May 2016