Marine safety investigations & reports

Collision between Ariake and Redcliffe

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On the morning of 24 January 2000, the British flag, twin screw, container vessel Ariake was inbound to number 1 berth at Fisherman Islands container terminal, in the Brisbane River. A pilot was conducting the navigation of the vessel. The passage through Moreton Bay was routine and the conditions were good with very little wind.

At 0616 the vessel passed the Entrance Beacons and proceeded into the river, passing the Inner Bar Beacons at 0647. During this passage the pilot was advised by Port Control that there would be a delay berthing Ariake as another vessel, MSC China, was still on number 1 berth and would not be clear until 0730.

Ariake's engines had been reduced to dead slow ahead by the time the Inner Bar was passed and at 0650 two Brisbane tugs, Austral Salvor and Redcliffe were made fast to Ariake's port shoulder and port quarter respectively. From 0652 to 0655 the pilot put Ariake's engines dead slow astern to stop the vessel off number 6 berth and allow the inbound dredge Sir Thomas Hilley, to pass down the starboard side.

At approximately 0654, with Ariake making slight headway, and both main engines going astern, the tug Redcliffe was washed in under Ariake's stern counter. The tug's fire curtain piping, on the starboard forward side of the deckhouse, made contact with the ship's shell plating. The stern of the tug also started to drift to port and away from the ship's side. The tug master responded to the contact by moving the tug's 'Uni-Lever' joystick control to provide astern/starboard thrust. His intention was to bring the tug's bow away from the side of the ship.

The tug responded rapidly to the 'Uni-Lever' command and moved astern with its stern swinging to starboard. The movement astern continued until tension came on the short towline. The tug's bow was then pulled into the ship's side. At this point Redcliffe's crucifix bollards located on the starboard shoulder, made contact with Ariake's shell plating adjacent to the transom. With its bow tethered by the towline, the tug pivoted on the crucifix bollards which tore a hole in Ariake's shell plating approximately 3 m above the waterline. At the same time, the short towline parted allowing Redcliffe to move clear of Ariake.

Redcliffe's master contacted Ariake to say that he had parted his line and that there was damage to both Ariake and Redcliffe. The tug crew hastily rigged another towline and Redcliffe was re-secured to Ariake's port quarter at 0704. Ariake was subsequently swung and berthed starboard side to number 1 berth with the two tugs finally being slipped at 0759. The remainder of the berthing operation was completed without incident.


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 collision between the Brisbane tug Redcliffe and the container ship Ariake on 24 January 2000 was a result of a number of factors which include but are not limited to:

  1. The tug was initially 'washed in' under the ship's stern counter as a result of the astern movement on the ship's port main engine between 0652 and 0655.
  2. The tug master misjudged his response to the initial impact of the spray curtain pipe-work which resulted in the second impact when most of the damage to the tug and ship occurred.
  3. The short, strong, towline may have contributed to the severity of the second collision.
  4. The tug master was probably experiencing some effects of fatigue at the end of a reasonably busy night shift. This fatigue may have affected his perception, judgement and response when handling the tug at close quarters with the ship.
  5. The tug master did not use the emergency options that were available to him, which may have mitigated the severity of the second collision, chiefly, the forward winch 'quick release' control.
  6. The tug's fendering system was rendered ineffective as a result of the; ship's stern design, arrival draught and the tug's port quarter towing position.
  7. There are still some apparent 'human factors' issues with the control of the large 'Duckpeller' tugs in Brisbane and further training is indicated for tug masters in emergency procedures.
Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 388KB]
General details
Date: 24 January 2000   Investigation status: Completed  
Location: Brisbane Harbour    
State: Queensland    
Release date: 18 January 2001   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel 1 details

Vessel 1 details
Vessel Ariake  
Flag Brit  
IMO 7417551  
Type of operation Container ship  
Damage to vessel Minor  
Departure point Melbourne  
Destination Brisbane  

Vessel 2 details

Vessel 2 details
Vessel Redcliffe  
Flag Aus  
IMO 8501397  
Type of operation Stern drive Omni-directional tug  
Damage to vessel Minor  
Departure point Fisherman Islands  
Last update 19 May 2016