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Summary

Summary

At about midnight on 18 March 2000, the recreational craft Chester, a half cabin cruiser with the owner and a deckhand on board, was at anchor about 28 miles east of Mooloolaba. No lookout was being maintained on the craft.

Shortly after midnight, when both crew members were asleep, Chester was struck by a ship. After the collision, the skipper found that there was minor damage to the bow and a handrail. The anchor had been lost, but the hull was intact and he anchored once more, using a spare anchor. About an hour later, he weighed anchor and returned to Mooloolaba, then to Brisbane by road with the craft on a trailer, where the deckhand reported the incident to the water police.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) interviewed the crew of Chester at Brisbane and obtained samples of paint, deposited as a result of the collision, from the starboard rail of the vessel.

The ATSB obtained a surface plot of ships in the area of the collision from AusSAR, the Australian search and rescue organisation. A number of ships on the plot were asked for their positions at the time of the collision and the bulk carrier Hai Teng provided a position close to that of the collision.

Hai Teng had been on a voyage from Newcastle to China at that time. When the vessel returned to Newcastle on 21 April 2000, interviews were conducted by the ATSB with the master, the 2nd and 3rd mates and the able-bodied seaman (AB) who had been on watch with the 2nd mate. The 2nd mate and AB denied any knowledge of the incident stating that they had not seen any craft near the ship at the time reported for the collision.

The ATSB also obtained paint samples from Hai Teng. The Criminalistics Team, Forensic Services, of the Australian Federal Police at Canberra analysed the paint samples from both vessels concluding, in their report, that there was strong evidence to support the proposition that the Hai Teng and Chester had come into contact.

Sources of Information

Owner and deckhand of Chester

Master, 2nd and 3rd mates and lookout, Hai Teng

AusSAR (Australian Search and Rescue)

AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority)

Acknowledgement

Portion of chart Aus 365 reproduced by permission of the Hydrographic Office, RAN

The Criminalisitics Team, Forensic Services, Australian Federal Police

Narrative

The ship

Hai Teng is a Chinese flag bulk carrier of 37 871 tonnes deadweight at a summer draught of 10.763 m. The vessel has an overall length of 187.73 m, a moulded breadth of 28.4 m, and a moulded depth of 15.3 m.

The vessel was built in April 1977 by Ishikawajima Harima Heavy Industries at Aioi in Japan. It was named Adrianople and then Radiant Venture before it was purchased by its present owners, Guangdong Ocean Shipping Co of Guangzhou, China, who re-named it Hai Teng. Hai Teng is classed with the China Classification Society.

Hai Teng has five cargo holds and is equipped with four deck cranes. The bridge, engine room and accommodation are located aft.

The vessel is powered by a single, 6-cylinder Sulzer diesel engine of 7 282 kW and has a service speed of 12 knots. The engine room is manned whilst the vessel is at sea.

Hai Teng had the normal range of navigation equipment, including three radars, of which two were in use. One radar, 3 cm, was manufactured by Tokyo Keiki in 1977 and was fitted with a JRC, JAS - 800 M II, ARPA. A second Japanese radar was not in use. The third radar, fitted in 1998, was a Kelvin Hughes, Nucleus 6000A, 10cm radar with ARPA.

All officers and crew were from China and the officers held appropriate certificates of competency issued by the Chinese Maritime Authority.

The master held a master's certificate as well as radar and ARPA licences. He had been at sea since 1980, as ordinary seaman (OS) and able-bodied seaman (AB) before sailing as 3rd mate from 1985 until 1989. He was 2nd mate on bulk carriers, general cargo and container ships from 1989 until 1993 and was chief officer on similar ships from 1993 until 1997. In 1998 he was promoted to master of a bulk carrier and he joined Hai Teng as master on 12 October 1999.

The 2nd mate had a 2nd mate's certificate and licences for radar and ARPA. He had been at sea since 1992 as a cadet, then AB and assistant officer, before sailing as 3rd mate in 1995. He had been a 2nd mate since 1998 and this was his second trip on Hai Teng. He had earlier sailed on Hai Teng from December 1997 until November 1998 and re-joined the ship in May 1999.

The 3rd mate had a 3rd mate's certificate and licences for radar and ARPA. He had been at sea since 1996 as a cadet, OS and AB before he was promoted to 3rd mate in March 2000.

The AB on watch with the 2nd mate had been at sea since 1985 as a cadet and OS. He had been sailing as AB for the last ten years.

The three mates maintained 4 on, 8 off sea watches, with an AB assigned to each watch for lookout duties.

The recreational craft

The recreational craft Chester, a half cabin cruiser built in 1986 and registered with Queensland Transport is operated out of Mooloolaba, Queensland.

The vessel has a registered length of 7.4 m, a beam of 2.5 m and a depth of 1 m. The hull and upperworks are of aluminium, painted white.

Chester is fitted with a 175 hp outboard engine driving a single screw. The vessel has a raked stem and a transom stern. There is a wheelhouse and the sleeping quarters are forward of, and below, the wheelhouse. The fishing deck is aft, illuminated at night by two strip lights just above the well-deck level. A white all round light is fitted above the forward end of the cabin.

Navigation equipment included a magnetic compass, GPS, a fish finder/echo sounder and two marine radios. The craft was equipped with an EPIRB.

The owner of Chester has a power boat licence and a licence to operate 27 MHz radio. He was a recreational fisherman and had been fishing for about 20 years, from his father's boat initially, then from his own boat which he bought in 1988. He had not had any previous accidents before this collision.

The deckhand, a recreational fisherman, had no licences. He had worked on charter craft for a few years and had fished with the owner of Chester for about 4 years.

The Incident

Hai Teng

Hai Teng had berthed at Newcastle at 1030 on 16 March 2000 to load a cargo of coal for China. After loading 36 912 tonnes of coal, the vessel sailed at 1144 on 17 March 2000. The draft at sailing was 10.55 m forward, 11.00 m aft.

After departing from Newcastle and disembarking the pilot, normal sea watches were maintained with the autopilot in use. The course recorder, which the master normally used when entering or leaving a port, was switched off after the pilot's departure.

The voyage proceeded without incident.

The 3rd mate took over the watch at 2000 on 18 March and he and the AB on duty maintained a lookout. The 10 cm radar was in use. At 2020 the 3rd mate retarded clocks 20 minutes to UTC (Universal Coordinated Time) + 10h 40m.

The ship recorded the following GPS positions,

  • at 2200: 27 02.9' S, 153 37.1' E.
  • at 2300: 26 51.2' S, 153 36.8' E and,
  • at midnight: 26 39.5' S, 153 36.4' E.

The watch was uneventful. When the 3rd mate handed over to the 2nd mate, there were no ships or other craft visible at the time. The visibility was in excess of 11 miles and the wind was from the southeast at force 4. There was a slight southeast sea running. There was no rain although the skies were partly cloudy.

The 2nd mate went to the bridge at 2345 on 18 March, fifteen minutes before the start of his watch as was normal. He and the AB were rested and, when they took the watch, the AB kept a lookout, moving from side to side of the bridge so that there would be no interference with the view ahead. The 2nd mate used the 10 cm radar to assist with keeping a lookout.

The AB did not see any other vessel ahead of Hai Teng throughout the watch. The 2nd mate, who was also keeping a lookout, did not recall seeing any other vessel ahead of Hai Teng at the time of the collision as reported by Chester.

At 0047, the 2nd mate retarded clocks by 20 minutes to UTC +10h 20m. At 0200 he logged a position by GPS, 26 08.5' S, 153 34.9' E and he logged two other GPS positions at 0300 and 0400. Nothing untoward was reported to have occurred during the 2nd mate's watch.

Chester

Chester sailed from Mooloolaba at about 0700 on 18 March 2000 with the owner and a deckhand on board. When the vessel arrived at the fishing ground at about 0900, the owner used the fish finder to find the best spot to fish. He anchored Chester at about 0930 about 28 nautical miles north east of Mooloolaba Harbour.

While Chester lay at anchor, heading towards the east, in about 78 metres of water, the owner and deckhand fished using rods and lines.

The weather forecast was for showers. There was some rain at about 1600, otherwise the weather was good with about 3/8 cloud cover and good visibility. The wind was mostly from the east, though the owner thought that it might have backed to the northeast during the afternoon.

The anchor light was switched on about an hour after sunset. One of the two low-wattage strip lights on the port side in the well-deck aft was also switched on. At about 2100, the owner went to sleep in the cabin forward of, and below, the wheelhouse.

At that time, the vessel was lying to an easterly wind. There were four other craft in the vicinity that night, one of them a commercial fishing vessel about 3 miles south. There was a boat due north, on the horizon, displaying a white light. There were two other craft, to the southwest and west of Chester.

When the deckhand went to sleep at about 2300, the forward hatch to the cabin was left open for ventilation.

The owner and the deckhand were both asleep when the craft was struck by a ship at about midnight. The sound of the impact was so loud that the owner thought that the fuel tanks might have exploded. He first looked towards the stern but saw nothing, then looked out of the forward hatch and saw the hull of a large ship less than a metre away from the bow of Chester. The ship's hull appeared to be dark grey or black and he thought that he could see draught marks on the side of the ship as it went past, heading north. Contact seemed to have taken place at the ship's port quarter.

The owner was concerned that the anchor rope would be caught in the ship's propeller, pulling his craft into the side of the ship, but the ship passed clear. He checked to see if they were taking on water, lifting hatches set into the deck forward and at the stern, but there were no apparent leaks.

He checked the craft for damage and saw that the fairlead for the moorings and anchor rope was bent though it was still serviceable. There was also a smear of black paint on the starboard rail of the craft.

The deckhand, awakened by the collision and thinking that Chester might have been sinking, went to the wheelhouse where he picked up the handset for the 27 MHz radio. However, he noticed that the owner seemed calm as he checked the craft for damage, so he turned the radio on but did not use it.

When the deckhand learned that there was not much damage to the craft, he went forward to have a look at the ship, but all he could see was its sternlight.

Chester's anchor rope had parted and the craft was drifting. The skipper, after manoeuvring Chester back to the original anchor position, anchored again using a spare anchor.

After a while the owner weighed anchor having decided to return to Mooloolaba. He did not make radio contact with any state authority or attempt to contact any vessels that might have been in the area. At Mooloolaba, the deckhand and he loaded the boat onto a trailer and returned to Brisbane where the deckhand reported the incident to the water police.

 
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