Marine safety investigations & reports

Collision between Barents Sea and Sea Wasp

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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At 0630 on the morning of 9 February 2000,two men launched the 4.5 m fibreglass pleasure craft Sea Wasp, at the Kyeemagh boat ramp in Botany Bay, and headed out to sea for a mornings fishing. The owner of the boat was acting as coxswain with his friend as passenger. Their destination was a fishing place called The Peak approximately 6 miles offshore. The weather was good with north to north-easterly winds at 10-15 knots and a 1-1.5 m swell. The day was also clear with excellent visibility. By approximately 0800 Sea Wasp had arrived at The Peak and the two men were fishing with the boat drifting south. The men had streamed a sea anchor and the bow of the boat was pointing in a westerly direction. Both men were fishing over the starboard side.

The same morning the crude oil tanker Barents Sea was northbound off the central coast of New South Wales. The vessel was bound for the Shell oil terminal at Gore Bay in Port Jackson. The third mate and master were the only crew on the bridge. They were conducting the navigation and keeping a look-out, the vessel was averaging a speed of 14-15 knots. Both of the vessel's radars were on and set to 6 mile1 range.

At 0929, Barents Sea altered course, in a position east of Botany Bay, from 015° to 000°. This was the final course alteration approaching the pilot boarding ground off Sydney heads some 10 miles to the north.

At 09343/4, Sea Wasp's coxswain was using the boat's 27 MHz radio to contact the local Australian Volunteer Coast Guard radio station to 'check in'. While using the radio he looked up and saw a large ship 50 m away on a collision course. He managed to send a quick 'mayday' signal, at the same time starting the boat's outboard motor. The coxswain turned Sea Wasp to port but, with the sea anchor still streaming, the boat was slow to respond. With the ship 10 m away, and a collision imminent, both men dived out of the boat and into the water.

At 0935, the ship's starboard bow struck Sea Wasp causing structural damage to the starboard side of the boat's cabin, and damage to the windscreen and depth sounder.

The two men surfaced to find themselves on the starboard side of the ship with Sea Wasp still afloat 10 m away and the outboard motor stopped. The men swam to Sea Wasp and re-boarded over the stern. Neither man had sustained injury. They rang 000 on a mobile telephone to request assistance and, during this conversation, identified Barents Sea as the ship they had collided with. The ship had not stopped and the coxswain used his camera to take some photographs as it steamed away. They then let off an orange smoke flare. Sea Wasp's motor was restarted and the two fishermen made their way back towards Botany Bay. A Sydney Water Police rescue boat met Sea Wasp 2 miles out from Botany Bay and escorted the boat back to their base at Sans Souci where the coxswain and his friend made statements. The coxswain was breathalysed and found to have a zero blood alcohol reading.

By 1312, Barents Sea was all fast alongside at Gore Bay. The first indication the crew had of the collision was when the ship's agent arrived on board. They reported that they had seen neither Sea Wasp nor the flare and the ship was found to have sustained no damage.

* Miles referred as nautical mile = 1852 m


Certain aspects of this investigation are unsatisfactory. The fact that there was no match in the paint samples and that a sighting of the flare was not reported by any other vessel or anybody on the land six miles away, must lead to some doubt as to the account of the men on Sea Wasp. However, considering the damage to the boat, the radar, telephone and radio records,the coxswain's photographs and the initial accounts and evidence collected by the Police, the inspector is satisfied that the account offered by the coxswain and his friend is substantially accurate and the collision did occur.

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 factors contributing to the collision between the pleasure craft Sea Wasp and the tanker Barents Sea on the morning of 9 February 2000 off Sydney include but are not limited to:

  1. There was a lack of an effective visual look-out being maintained by both vessels in the 30 minutes prior to the collision as required by the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
  2. Sea Wasp presented as a poor radar target and was consequently not detected on Barents Sea's radar displays by the third mate or master.
  3. After Barents Sea changed course at 0929 any radar echo from Sea Wasp would have been at least partially obscured on the ship's radar displays by the electronic heading lines.
  4. In the prevailing weather conditions, Sea Wasp's white topsides would have made its visual detection more difficult.
  5. The ability of the men aboard Sea Wasp to maintain an effective look-out was hindered listening to the radio.
  6. The sea anchor streaming from Sea Wasp's bow limited the manoeuvrability of the boat and the coxswain's ability to take evasive action immediately prior to the collision.
Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 658KB]
General details
Date: 09 February 2000   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: N/A    
Location: Off Maroubra    
State: New South Wales    
Release date: 27 July 2001   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel 1 details

Vessel 1 details
Vessel Barents Sea  
Flag Pan  
IMO 9192258  
Type of operation Crude Oil Tanker  
Damage to vessel Nil  
Departure point Melaka, Malaysia  
Destination Gore Bay, Sydney  

Vessel 2 details

Vessel 2 details
Vessel Sea Wasp, FJ234N  
Flag Aus  
Type of operation Half cabn runabout  
Damage to vessel Substantial  
Destination The Peak, 6 miles due east of Long Bay  
Last update 19 May 2016