The British flag passenger ship Regal Princess arrived off the Queensland port of Cairns at about 0530 on 15 March 2001 and embarked a pilot to conduct the vessel for the inward passage. The weather was clear with a wind from the south-east at 15 to 20 knots at the pilot boarding ground.
Some difficulties were experienced with the handling of the vessel during the inward pilotage due to the windage of the ship and its manoeuvring characteristics. The ship swung in the turning basin and made fast port-side-to its assigned berth at about 0645. There was some minor damage sustained by the harbour tug through contact with Regal Princess during the berthing operation.
Sailing time was set as 1700 the same day.
At 1500 that day, a meeting was convened between the harbour master, the pilot, duty pilot, the ship's agent and the master of Regal Princess to discuss the departure. The pilot who conducted the inward pilotage was also assigned for the outward pilotage. He was concerned about both the height and ebb of the tide at the scheduled departure time of 1700. Together with a strong wind warning, these would combine to increase the difficulties in handling the ship.
The outcome of the meeting was that the sailing time was amended from 1700 to 0200 the next morning, 16 March 2001. At that time the wind was expected to have abated, the tide would be flooding and there would be a greater underkeel clearance (UKC).
At 0200 the vessel left her berth and proceeded outward. The wind was still from the south-east, at about 8 knots at the berth, increasing to 15 knots outside. The departure proceeded as expected until the ship reached the vicinity of beacon C14, when a series of pronounced yaws developed, culminating in the vessel grounding and coming to a stop at 0240 on the eastern side of the channel, with its starboard shouldern between beacons C14 and C12. The ship was aground for about 4 minutes. The ship was then manoeuvred off the bank and proceeded out to the anchorage.
Nobody was hurt as a result of the grounding and there was no pollution. The ship was checked internally for damage and found to be sound and seaworthy. As the sea state and current in Cairns prevented an inspection by divers at that time, the ship was released to proceed onward to Darwin. The underwater inspection in Darwin, the next port, revealed minor hull damage with a small area of the bottom plating having been set up under the bulbous bow, which was likely to be partly the result of an earlier grounding in the Carribean.
|Date:||16 March 2001||Investigation status:||Completed|
|Release date:||13 September 2002|
|Report status:||Final||Occurrence category:||Incident|
|Highest injury level:||None|
|Type of operation||Passenger|
|Damage to vessel||Minor|
|Departure point||New Zealand|